Cataracts are an inevitable part of life, similar to gray hair or wrinkles, an often not-so-friendly reminder of the number of years we’ve lived. It’s no secret that they’re a nuisance, blurring your vision, forcing you to switch between glasses – a pair for seeing far away, a pair for reading, a pair for computer work – even dulling once vibrant colors. Fortunately, we live in a time where cataract surgery is not only the safest surgical procedure available, but the technologies are so advanced and physicians so skilled that the procedure and results often lend to better vision than a 60+-year-old patient ever had the joy of experiencing without correction (contact lenses or glasses). Twenty years ago, removing cataracts left patients needing “Coke-bottle glasses” to see well. Ten years ago, technology was improved but patients typically still relied on prescription glasses or contacts to correct their vision. Within the past 5 years, this narrative has changed.
The Eye Institute of West Florida is a world-renowned multi-specialty ophthalmology at the forefront of industry advancements and more specifically cataract and refractive techniques and technologies. Cataract surgery today offers patients the opportunity to undergo a 5-10 minutes out-patient procedure and reduce or completely eliminate their need for glasses.
Thomas Perez spent most of his life seeing clearly with little correction. After celebrating his 60th birthday, he noticed changes in his once crystal-clear vision. His glasses prescription kept getting higher, while his visual quality continued to decrease. No matter how many times he had his prescription changed, images in the distance were no longer clear. His optometrist informed him that he had developed cataracts, and the only way to restore his clear vision would be cataract surgery.
Thomas decided to address his visual concerns and his local optometrist referred him to The Eye Institute of West Florida’s Director of Cataract and Refractive Services, Robert J. Weinstock, M.D.
“Thomas had very typical concerns regarding the effect his cataracts had on his vision,” Dr. Weinstock explains. “Our practice emphasizes the importance of not only addressing the cataract but getting to know each patient and learning what their visual goals are. We ask each patient questions about their lifestyle and how they use their vision in their everyday life. Is it important for them to see clearly at a distance for activities like golfing? Do they use a computer regularly for their work? Are they an avid reader? We take all of these facts into account prior to recommending the appropriate treatment option for them,” he continues.
After assessing a patient’s needs, the cataract team at The Eye Institute performs numerous maps and tests of the eyes, checking the health of the retina and cornea, checking for astigmatism and refining the options to ensure the best results possible.
“It’s important for us to build a relationship with the patient because there are so many options available. I inform patients that today’s technology allows us to use a laser to perform a lot of the surgery, there no longer is a need for stitches or patches to cover the eye, which was required 10 years ago,” Dr. Weinstock adds. Along with advanced technology, the Intraocular Lens Implant (IOL) used to replace the clouded lens caused by the cataract varies immensely.
Thomas wanted restored sharp, crisp distance vision as well as the ability to see his computer clearly. He didn’t mind needing a pair of drugstore reading glasses to read very fine print, as distance and middle vision were his priority. Dr. Weinstock chose the Crystalens AO, an accommodating IOL that adjusts like a natural lens, resulting in clear distance and middle vision.
“There is no on-size-fits-all treatments,” Dr. Weinstock emphasizes, “Everyone sees differently. The advantages of Crystalens IOLs are that they provide high-contrast, high-quality distance vision and non-glare nighttime vision while also performing well for computer and intermediate vision. Other implants address different visual concerns: monofocal lenses offer a fixed focus for one distance; multifocal lenses provide distance and near focus and toric lenses correct astigmatism. It really is a completely customized procedure dependent on each specific patient.”
Using eye-drop anesthesia, patients marvel when, after only a few minutes, they leave the surgery room and within a day return to most of their normal daily activities. Thomas noticed immediate improvement in his vision following his surgery, which continued to improve as his eyes healed. He now enjoys 20/20 vision and only needs reading glasses to see fine print.
Although developing cataracts may not be the most fun aspect of growing older, the advanced technology available and the safety and ease of the procedure typically leave patients wishing they had undergone the procedure sooner.
Thomas raves of his decision to have cataract surgery, “I tell people it was like watching a black-and-white TV and then switching to a high-definition TV.”