Learn the facts about one of the most common sight-threatening conditions for African-American older adults
African-Americans have nearly twice the risk of developing cataracts than Caucasians.
This difference may be due to other medical illnesses, particularly diabetes.
African-Americans are also much more likely to become blind from cataracts and glaucoma than Caucasians, mostly due to lack of treatment.
Despite this threat, most people don’t know the facts about cataracts until they are “eye-to-eye” with one.
Don’t let poor vision cloud your future. Educate yourself about cataract symptoms, risks and removal.
Then, ask yourself if it’s time for you to have an eye exam.
What exactly is a cataract?
“A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens located inside the eye behind the pupil,” says Mark Freedman, MD, senior partner at Eye Care Specialists, a leading ophthalmology practice recognized for providing advanced medical, surgical and laser treatment of most all eye conditions.
“This lens works like a camera lens—focusing light onto the retina at the back of the eye to form the images you see.
As you age, changes can cause clouding of this lens. This clouding is called a ‘cataract.’
As the clouding advances, it can blur and glare vision to the point of inhibiting day-to-day functioning. Depending on the type of cataract, the clouding may take years or just months to progress.”
What increases the risk of developing a cataract?
• Age (cataracts develop with time, like age spots & wrinkles—six out of 10 people over age 60 have some form of cataract)
• Diabetes (doubles the risk for cataracts & glaucoma)
• Cortisone/steroid use
• Long-term unprotected sunlight exposure
• Previous eye injury
How do you get rid of a cataract?
“There are no drugs, drops, glasses or exercises that can prevent or cure cataracts,” says Brett Rhode, MD, Head of Ophthalmology at Aurora Sinai Medical Center and partner at Eye Care Specialists.
“The only effective treatment is to make an opening in the eye, surgically remove the cloudy lens (cataract), and replace it with an intraocular lens implant (IOL) to once again focus light rays onto the retina,” adds Rhode, who, along with the rest of the surgeons at Eye Care Specialists, uses the most advanced techniques to gently break up and remove cataracts through a tiny incision.
What are the symptoms?
Losing your vision is not a fact of life as you grow older. Schedule an eye exam if you notice:
• Foggy, fuzzy, blurred or double vision
• Sensitivity to light and glare
• “Starbursts” around lights
• Holding items closer to view
• Needing brighter light to read
• Fading or yellowing of colors
• Difficulty judging stairs or curbs
• Difficulty seeing to drive at night
• Vision changes affecting the ability to do tasks
• Glasses and prescription changes don’t help
When should you have surgery?
Daniel Ferguson, MD, an ophthalmologist with thousands of cases under his surgical cap advises, “It’s not necessary to wait to remove a cataract until it’s so ripe that almost all vision is blocked.
In fact, if you wait too long, it can grow so dense that the operation becomes more difficult.
If a cataract is preventing you from doing tasks, new glasses won’t improve clarity, and no other major eye conditions exist which would keep you from having a positive outcome (like severe macular degeneration), then it’s time for surgery.”
Why do some people hesitate to have surgery?
“Some people delay surgery because they think it’s unaffordable.
They don’t realize it’s covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance plans.
Others think they are too old or that poor vision is just a fact of life that comes with age.
We want everyone to know that vision loss from cataracts is usually reversible, and with today’s advanced techniques and equipment, cataract removal is one of the safest outpatient operations— even for the very elderly,” says Freedman.
What happens once you decide to have the cataract removed?
Cataract surgery is NOT performed in the office or on the day of your initial appointment.
First, you must meet the surgeon and have preparatory tests done. Once you and your doctor decide to proceed with surgery, you will have a comprehensive eye exam to see if any other existing conditions (such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment and macular degeneration) could detract from your surgery results.
Your exam will also include a quick, painless ultrasound procedure to determine the prescription for the IOL implant that will restore focusing ability in your eye.
What happens before surgery?
Daniel Paskowitz, MD, PhD, an eye surgeon with credentials from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, explains, “We enter information regarding the length of the eye and curvature of the cornea into a special computer that calculates the power of IOL which would best restore vision to pre-cataract levels.
We then customize the type of implant and surgical technique to fit the patient’s needs—taking into consideration overall health, any diabetic or retinal problems, lifestyle, and other factors.
We never lose sight of the fact that even though our practice has performed tens of thousands of cataract procedures, each patient is unique and is treated accordingly.”
How does the lens implant restore vision?
Eye Care Specialists ophthalmologist and surgeon Michael Raciti, MD, explains, “After the cloudy lens (about the size of an aspirin) has been removed, the artificial lens implant (IOL) is inserted through the same opening and placed permanently inside the eye to provide focusing ability, peripheral (side) vision, and depth perception.
IOLs not only provide sharper vision, but often improve sight to levels not seen in years.
Standard IOLs are like miniature internal contact lenses set for a single prescription power—usually to provide clear vision in the distance for driving, watching TV, and other tasks.
Most patients with these lenses still need reading glasses or bifocals.
Newer ‘premium’ IOLs can adjust for astigmatism or provide multiple focusing zones with less dependence on glasses.
Your surgeon will help you determine which type of IOL is best for your eye, health, budget and lifestyle.”
What happens during surgery?
Cataract surgery is performed on an outpatient basis using local anesthesia (often just drops to numb the eye).
Typically, a no-stitch, self-sealing micro-incision is made to remove the cataract and insert the lens implant.
Utilizing these advanced techniques, the procedure itself usually takes only about 15-20 minutes and total time at the outpatient surgery center is about 2-3 hours.
What happens after surgery?
After surgery, patients go home and resume most activities within hours. Their vision noticeably improves within days.
“Most people are so pleased with seeing things brighter and clearer, that they can’t wait to have their other eye done,” notes David Scheidt, OD, a medical optometrist who assists with the pre- and postoperative care of Eye Care Specialists’ patients.
What’s the best way to prevent cataracts and other eye diseases?
• Get regular eye checkups because eye diseases don’t always have symptoms.
African-Americans over age 40 should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years.
If you have diabetes, you need an eye exam at least once a year. Ask your doctor how often you should have your eyes checked. • Protect your eyes from the sun with sunglasses and a hat.
• Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
• Control your blood pressure and blood sugar.
• Eat a balanced diet high in healthy nutrients (like fruits and green leafy vegetables) and low in fat and sugar.
FREE BOOKLETS & INFORMATION
Eye Care Specialists’ doctors are dedicated to providing the finest cataract, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and macular degeneration care.
They frequently lecture to the public and fellow physicians and have written their own series of booklets on these conditions.
Call 414-321-7035 for FREE copies or to schedule an appointment for a thorough eye screening (usually covered by insurance or Medicare) at their offices on 7th & Wisconsin Avenue, Mayfair Road across from the mall, or 102nd & National Ave.
They also offer information at www.eyecarespecialists.net.