Dear Dr. Viki...
I remember my great aunt had thick glasses after she had cataract surgery. My grandmother just wore readers. My mother recently had cataract surgery and doesn’t wear any glasses at all. What is the difference?
Modern cataract surgery has come a long way since your great aunt’s experience. Reading the Valley Mirror Veteran’s Day edition this past year, I was touched by the stories and photos. Veterans have also indirectly contributed to improving outcomes of cataract surgery.
It wasn’t until Sir Harold Ridley placed the first intraocular implant into the eye in 1949 that wearing thin glasses was possible. During WWII, this English ophthalmologist observed that wounded pilots with splinters of acrylic plastic in their eyes (from aircraft cockpits) had no problems.
Sir Harold Ridley modified this acrylic material and implanted the first artificial lens into the eye. Ridiculed by his colleagues for his crazy idea, he persisted. In 1952, the first artificial lens in America was implanted in Pennsylvania.
When your grandmother had her surgery, she was lucky to have an implant, which could correct for one range of vision, usually distance, but required reading glasses.
Your mother is even luckier. She had a variety of cataract lens implant choices. There are lenses to correct astigmatism or even allow clear vision at all ranges without glasses.
In 2000, Sir Harold Ridley was knighted for his work that changed the way your grandmother and mother see.