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Eye lens implant restores vision

LONDON -- Fifty-eight year old Jennie Brindley is getting the front door of her London home repainted, and says since she had new lens implants surgically inserted into her eyes to restore her compromised vision, she can take a more active role in the home renovation.

"I couldn't do anything without glasses [before]. I also had a cloudiness, a loss of color. It was impossible for me to drive at night," Brindley says of her former astigmatism, cataracts and short-sightedness. "Now, as we are having the door painted, I can properly select the colors and I could properly enjoy the colors," she says.

Brindley received a new, plastic Symfony lens implant that its manufacturers say provides patients with a continuous range of vision including far, intermediate and near distances. Eye surgeons working with the new implant say it provides better vision without as much of the halo and glare that follows standard monofocal lens cataract surgery.

"Both Jenny Brindley's short-sightedness and her significant astigmatism were precisely corrected... and without any significant optical side-effects, which is as good as you can get," says Brian Little, the doctor who performed Brindley's surgery. The President of UK and Ireland Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgeons says he's been implanting the Symfony lens since it first became commercially available in the United Kingdom this summer.

While the FDA has not approved the lenses yet, the company who makes them is hoping they'll be approved in the United States in the next year or two.

Surgeons say the lens is inserted into the lens capsule of the eye -- replacing the natural lens -- during a cataract operation. The plastic implant has circular grooves that extend the eye's range of vision and allow more light in. Lens manufacturers say it's the first to correct all types of vision problems.

Patients and surgeons told CBS News that the lens acts like a camera zoom lens, providing a smooth transition from seeing near-to-far. The implants may have appeal to those who collect reading glasses and driving glasses, as they grow older.

"I get a lot of hugs from old people, which is great," says eye surgeon Bobby Qureshi. The London Eye Hospital Medical Director performed the first commercial Symfony lens implant, and says replacing the eye's natural lens with the plastic implant is as safe a laser eye surgery.

"And it will last almost forever," Qureshi says. "Everybody [with them] will get good far vision, they'll get good intermediate vision and in about 80 to 90 percent of people, they will be able to read comfortably -- even small print -- without glasses," he adds.

Surgeons say the eye operation takes about a half hour, and costs around $3,000 to $6,200 per eye. Brindley says her implants were worth every penny.

"In many ways, it makes you feel younger," she says with a giggle. "It is really tempting to show off to people, because I am so delighted I can see so well."

Follow Alphonso Van Marsh on Twitter: @AlphonsoVM