Surgeon: OK. I'm going to put this little cover over your right eye --
Announcer: Fifty-four year old Paul Wood, a former truck driver from Chandler, Arizona, is having cataract surgery today on his left eye. A month ago he had a cataract removed from his right eye.
Paul Wood: I guess they go from a scale of 1 to 4 and mine were at a 2, so they decided it was time to do it before they got worse.
Announcer: And how was it affecting you? Was it -- did it make a difference to your driving?
Paul Wood: Yeah, especially at night was bad -- lights and stuff at night.
Announcer: People with cataracts typically describe headlights as looking like star bursts or fireworks. These changes are often the first symptoms a person has of developing cataracts. Other symptoms include blurred images and problems with color perception. A cataract is the clouding of the transparent lens of the eye. The only way to correct the problem is to have the lens surgically removed. It usually occurs after the age of 65 as part of the aging process, but as in Paul's case, certain medications and diabetes can cause premature cataracts. Paul has been on steroids following a kidney transplant two years ago.
Surgeon: So we're going to administer an intravenous sedative here that will help him to relax a little bit.
Announcer: After the sedation, Paul is also given local anesthesia to numb the eye area. With microscopic surgery the surgeon can make a very small incision, enabling the eye to heal without stitches.
Surgeon: So now we'll make an opening in the front part of that membrane, in the front part of the capsule. This blade is -- it looks like glass, but it's a diamond. So it's very sharp.
Announcer: The cloudy lens is removed so that light can once more pass through to the back of the eye. A permanent artificial lens is then inserted to focus the light so the patient can see clearly again.
Surgeon: This is an emulsifying tip that vibrates at ultrasonic energies and wherever the tip touches the cataract it dissolves it and draws it away by suction.
Announcer: With this suction technique, cataracts can be removed while they are still soft. They don't have to be ripe, solid or cover the lens completely.
Surgeon: The lens implant is contained within the tip of this insertion device. And this lets us put the implant in through a small incision.
Announcer: So it's rolled up or folded up?
Surgeon: It's folded up inside.
Announcer: The new lens for Paul's eye has been calibrated and adjusted to correct his near-sightedness.
Surgeon: We'll just rotate the implant. There we go -- that looks wonderful. Then we check to make sure the eye pressure is normal, which it is. And that's the end of the operation. All done.
Announcer: So it's only about three minutes since you were on the table inside. How do you feel now?
Paul Wood: OK. I feel fine.
Announcer: It's amazing.
Paul Wood: No pain, no nothing.
Announcer: Yes, and has the drug that was making you feel relaxed, has that worn off yet?
Paul Wood: No, I still feel relaxed.
Announcer: Good, good.
Surgeon: Usually when you talk to patients the next day they say they have no pain with this. They might take Tylenol or Advil, medication like that. It's very, very rare that a patient needs anything stronger than that and when they come in the next day you say, "What kind of night did you have?"
"Fine, no problems at all."
"How does your eye feel?"
"It feels fine."
"It's not scratchy, it's not sore."
It's -- it's almost miraculous.
Nurse: You're not feeling light-headed or dizzy at all?
Announcer: Paul takes it all in stride. He's walking back out the clinic door just 90 minutes after he arrived.