Crystal Clear Surgery gets rid of cataracts, nixes need for glasses

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 18, 2010

About four years ago, Mary Ruth Jones started having trouble seeing while driving. When road signs began to look hazy, she knew it was time to call a doctor.

“It wasn’t my close-up vision; it was my distance vision that went blurry,” said Jones, 74, of Vicksburg. “That was the first time I really knew I had cataracts.”

Jones saw Dr. Connie McCaa, a Jackson ophthalmologist, and discovered she needed cataract surgery. McCaa implanted multi-focal lenses, which allow the patient to see short and far distances, and reduces or sometimes eliminates the need for glasses.

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Now Jones, who enjoys reading and playing piano, doesn’t have to wear her spectacles and has no problem seeing fine print.

“It’s really made a difference in my life, and I don’t have to look through those glasses anymore,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Cataract extraction is the most common eye surgery in the United States, with more than 1.6 million occurring each year, according to the National Institutes of Health, and about 95 percent of those surgeries improve vision.

Mono-focal lens implants are also available, but patients often still need their glasses after surgery.

More than 20 million Americans are affected by cataracts, which is a clouding of the eyes’ lenses. And more than half of Americans age 80 have cataracts or have had cataract surgery.

“Ninety five percent of the people that I do cataract surgery on are in their late 60s, early 70s — about that age range,” said Vicksburg ophthalmologist Dr. Donald Hall, who performs about three cataract surgeries a week and has been in practice since 1977. He only implants mono-focal lenses.

“What we try to do is strike a happy medium for the implant,” Hall said. “We try to make the implant so the person can see most of what they need to see far off in the distance, like driving a car and watching TV, and still be able to see some big print up close.”

When it comes to cataracts, McCaa said, the first thing many people notice is that car lights blind them at night.

“They can’t see because of the glare,” she said. “Another thing is that they get blurred vision. It’s difficult to read up close and to see at a distance.”

Cataract surgery, an outpatient procedure, lasts about 25 minutes. A small incision is made in the eye, and ultrasound is used to break up the cataract. It is then sucked out of the eye.

Eye doctors check for cataracts as part of a routine exam.

Hall recommends people with glasses have their eyes examined every two years; those with normal vision every three to four years; and those older than 60 yearly.

Refraining from smoking and wearing sunglasses are ways to help prevent cataracts, Hall said, as nicotine and ultraviolent radiation promote the disease’s development.