The month of June has been designated national Cataract Awareness Month. A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens. The exact cause of cataracts is still uncertain, but cataracts seem to form as we age. Other factors include exposure to ultraviolet lights, cigarette smoking, alcohol, and eating habits.
There are several types of cataracts: Age related cataracts, which occur when protein clusters up in the lens and causes cloudiness or from the discoloration of the lens from aging; secondary cataracts, which form after surgery from other eye disease like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy; traumatic cataracts, which form after an eye injury; congenital cataracts, which are present at birth due to birth defects, diseases, or other problems; and radiation cataracts, which form after major exposure to radiation.
Some warning signs of cataracts may include blurry vision or glare from car headlights, especially at night. Sunlight or indoor overhead lighting may seem to be too bright or cause glare. You may notice that bright colors appear dulled. Sometime cataracts can cause double vision and you may actually find that you are frequently changing contact or eyeglasses prescriptions. These symptoms might also be signs of other eye-related problems, so it is best to get checked by your ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has been trained to perform both surgical and non-invasive procedures. An optometrist has been trained to perform non-invasive procedures, such as eye exams and fittings for glasses and contacts.
The only effective treatment for cataracts is to have them surgically removed. Modern cataract surgery is one of the most frequently performed surgical procedures in the Untied States. When performed by an ophthalmologist with experience in cataract and lens implantation surgery, it is also one of the most successful surgeries that you can have.
Cataract surgery usually requires the replacement of the natural lens with an intraocular lens. The most recent single vision lens implant is designed to improve your functional vision. This means you will see better in varying light conditions. It is one thing to read 20/20 at your doctor’s office with ideal light contrast, but these lenses improve your vision in less than ideal conditions such as rain, fog, twilight etc. In a simulated night driving study this lens provides an additional 45 feet of identification distance at 55 mph when compared to the other traditional intraocular lens. It also blocks UV light while allowing full transmission of the visible light spectrum.
Another new lens is the multi-focal implant. This lens improves your vision at a variety of distances. It allows most people to see well anywhere, be it near, mid-distance or far away. It is divided into five different zones with each zone designed for different light and focal distances. Some zones have been designed to offer greater low light/distance vision support during night driving. Many people do not need glasses for distance or near with this lens implant. There is an adjustment period as your brain “learns” to see out of a multi-focal lens. Of course, results depend on the overall health of your eyes.
Additionally, an all-laser, blade-free method of cataract surgery is revolutionizing one of the most common surgical procedures performed in medicine today. Femtosecond laser cataract surgery, using the LenSx laser System offers a reproducible, noninvasive technique to replace the least predictable — and most technically demanding — steps for surgeons during conventional cataract procedures. In addition, the laser’s advanced technology makes break-up and removal of the cataract easier and gentler on the patient.
Laser assisted cataract surgery also makes laser correction of astigmatism now possible with more precise and predictable laser-guided application. Furthermore, in the post-operative recovery period following laser cataract surgery, there is less incidence of swelling and inflammation than with traditional cataract surgery.
Each human eye varies according to size, depth, curvature of the cornea and other essential factors. Prior to the procedure, each eye is carefully measured and mapped. The laser uses a combination of highly advanced technologies to capture extremely precise, high-resolution digital images of the eye. The real-time images, plus the measurements and data they provide, are then used to plan and perform a customized surgery to specifications that were previously unachievable.
The LenSx laser procedure is surgeon-directed and computer controlled, allowing for maximum precision throughout the surgery. This accuracy allows most patients the opportunity to rapidly return to their normal activities. According to the latest documentations from Alcon, Inc., the company that manufactures and distributes LenSx lasers, the national outcomes of procedures continue to be promising with patients achieving early visual recovery and consistent results.
In conclusion, the most important advice is to get regular eye exams. Cataracts and other eye disorders generally occur gradually and may not be noticed right away. Your ophthalmologist is trained to detect these problems in the earliest stages. In my practice when surgery is required, I follow the patient through the entire process, pre-op, surgery and post-op, to provide a continuum of care and help my patients feel more at ease. If you have any questions, feel free to contact my office at 434-7505.
Dr. Charles Fetterman is a board certified ophthalmologist. His offices are located at 2600 William St., Newfane, and 70 Professional Parkway, Lockport. Surgical procedures are performed at Niagara Regional Surgery Center in Lockport. Healthlines is a bi-weekly feature from Eastern Niagara Hospital’s community relations department. Questions may be directed to 514-5505.