Aug. 23, 2013 - Most
people know someone who has successfully undergone cataract surgery –
without much fanfare. So, as a topic of conversation, cataracts are
however, means that many people go into cataract surgery without a full
understanding of the procedure, options and safety concerns. And, that’s
unfortunate, as there are many things that many people
really need to know. After all, about three million cataract procedures
are performed annually, making it the most common surgery in the United
And, demand for
cataract surgery, and
in general, is expected to surge in the coming years, as more people
reach 65 years of age.
Here are seven
questions about cataracts that you probably never bothered to ask – with
answers that could help you become more informed.
What is a
Cataract? Think of it like this: The lens in the eye is one of the few
structures in the body that is transparent. When we are born, it is a
clear, beautiful, focusing lens. As we age, though, proteins in the lens
turn yellow, develop white patches, and create worse vision. Any haze in
our crystalline lens is a cataract.
What are the
symptoms of cataracts? To start, you need to understand that you can have 20/20 vision
and still suffer from cataracts. With cataracts, however, you will not
be experiencing the magic of vision – the beautiful vibrancy of colors
and the ability to see in low-light situations or at night. In
addition, as cataracts form, you might experience cloudy vision, glare
or even double vision.
Many people with
cataracts find it difficult to engage in work and leisure related
activities, a huge concern for an aging population, which now includes
people who want to lead active, fulfilling lives well into their golden
years. Besides interfering with work related activities, cataracts can
inhibit leisure pursuits such as golf, reading and art.
Marcia Simpson, an Oak
Brook, Illinois, resident, had a difficult time pursuing her passion for
art when she started to suffer from cataracts.
really changed my life because I couldn’t really see colors very well
and was struggling with keeping up with my painting,” Simpson says.
Aug. 23, 2013 -
Abbott Medical Optics announced last week that it has acquired
OptiMedica Corporation, a Silicon Valley-based ophthalmic device
company. The acquisition expands Abbott’s vision care business
into the femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery market.
procedures are performed manually with the surgeon making
incisions into the eye by hand.
Catalys Precision Laser System is designed to allow surgeons to
replace some of the technically demanding manual steps in
cataract surgery with precise, imageguided, femtosecond laser
laser can be used to create an anterior capsulotomy, effect
phacofragmentation, and make a variety of incisions during
cataract surgery. The Catalys laser system has both CE Mark in
Europe and clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Catalys system enhances Abbott’s leadership position in vision
care with the addition of a state-of-the-art laser cataract
technology to our portfolio,” said Murthy Simhambhatla, senior
vice president, medical optics, Abbott.
technology combined with Abbott’s global market presence, offer
the potential to provide advanced cataract treatment options to
more patients around the world.”
What can I do to
prevent cataracts? Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process and are
inevitable for many people. Even though research has not absolutely
confirmed reliable prevention tactics, some common-sense steps can at
the very least delay the onset of cataracts.
First off, pay
attention to your overall health. By eating right, exercising and
maintaining a healthy weight you could delay the onset of cataracts.
Second, limit your exposure to ultraviolet light. A study of fishermen
who were constantly exposed to large amounts of sunlight showed that
such exposure increases the chances of developing cataracts. Diabetes,
steroids, and eye trauma could also lead to the earlier onset of
When should I have
surgery? You should have the surgery when you want it. Simply put,
when cataracts start to interfere with your lifestyle, then you should
consider surgery. Because cataract surgery has steadily improved over
the past 20 years, the procedure presents minimal risk. So, it is
reasonable to consider surgery as soon as cataracts start to diminish
your quality of life. Previously, many people would put off or never
have cataract surgery and simply accept the vision loss as a part of the
aging process but that is no longer necessary.
What exactly happens
during cataract surgery? Picture a grape. The surgeon tears a tiny whole in the outside
“skin” and then sucks out the “fruit.” In essence, the surgeon is
sucking out all the abnormal protein. However it is hardened and the
surgeon has to crack it up into small pieces to get it out.
addition, the surgeon will implant an artificial lens in the “skin” that
holds the natural lens. Most cataract surgery uses this option. In a few
cases, the doctor may not be able to replace the lens. After your eye
has recovered from surgery, you will be fitted with eyeglasses or
contact lenses to compensate for any residual focusing issues.
What are the safety
concerns? Overall, less than 1% of people develop a serious
complication after cataract surgery. The risk of blindness after surgery
is very low. While relatively uncommon, potential complications include
swelling of the retina, new or different astigmatism, inflammation of
the cornea, retinal detachment and infection.
Are there any
advances in treatment that I should be aware of? Femtosecond laser assisted surgery is the most
advanced method of cataract surgery. While introduced about a year ago
and only available in only a few areas of the country, this
groundbreaking technology is already being used in the western suburbs.
Elmhurst Outpatient Surgery Center is now using the
Catalys Precision Laser System for cataract
surgery and astigmatic correction. The ssystem’s
state-of-the-art femtosecond laser, advanced 3D Optical
Coherence Tomography (OCT) imaging, sophisticated software and a host of
other unique features enable surgeons to provide a gentle, highly
customized procedure with unprecedented precision.
technology eliminates the manual steps of using a surgical blade, bent
needle, forceps or chopper by using a laser to pretreat the eye prior to
surgery. This adds greater precision to the cataract procedure
potentially making the surgery safer. With the laser procedure, the
surgeon creates small curved incisions in the cornea at a precise depth,
length, location and angle to tackle astigmatism.
Instead of manually
applying pressure to make a cut in the “skin of the grape,” the laser
makes a perfectly round cut. The laser then breaks up the protein inner
core into tiny cubes, making it possible to gently remove the cataracts.
have shown that this opening is approximately ten times more accurate
when performed with a femtosecond laser than what is achievable by hand.
The result: Improved
precision – and improved safety, since there is less energy put into the
patient’s eye. As such, patients experience:
Little or no discomfort
A gentler and easier cataract removal
Generally, a more rapid visual recovery due to reduced inflammation
The opportunity to receive tailored treatment with advanced technology
multi-focal lenses, which could reduce the need for glasses or contacts
About the Author Dr. Balaji Gupta is one of the ophthalmologists who use the
Catalys femtosecond laser to perform cataract surgery at Elmhurst
Outpatient Surgery Center
www.eosc.org, one of the first healthcare facilities in Illinois
to offer the advanced procedure. Dr. Gupta practices at DuPage
in Lombard, IL.