Technology has transformed the eye care industry making it possible to surgically treat a variety of eye diseases. There are benefits and risks to each surgical procedure so it is essential that you work closely with your ophthalmologist to determine whether or not you are a good candidate.
When a patient has been diagnosed with cataracts, it means that the lens of the eye is clouding over. As a result, vision is negatively affected causing the patient to feel like they are looking through a dirty or foggy window. Once a cataract has developed and removal has been deemed medically necessary, the only way to treat the condition is with cataract surgery.
During cataract surgery, the ophthalmologist will remove the clouded lens and replace it with synthetic intraocular lens (IOL) inside the eye. Just prior to surgery, drops will be used to numb the eye. A small incision is then created at the edge of the cornea using either a laser or a very sharp blade. The cataract lens is then removed using a small ultra-sonic instrument. After the cataract has been removed, an IOL is put in its place. Since the incision site is so small, no stitch is necessary because the eyes natural internal pressure keeps the incision closed until it naturally heals. Most patients spend approximately 30 minutes in recovery before they are released to go home.
Glaucoma is the result of pressure levels in the eye being higher than normal. It is therefore essential to relieve the pressure to avoid permanent vision loss. If medication can’t sufficiently reduce eye pressure, surgery will be necessary to stop the progression of the disease. If you have glaucoma or suspect you may have glaucoma, it is important to understand that vision loss cannot be reversed after the damage has been done so it is important to work closely with your eye care provider to monitor progression of the disease and administer treatment as needed.
There are different surgical procedures that a surgeon may utilize depending on the severity and progression of the disease. In less severe cases, a laser can be used to treat the symptoms or micro-invasive surgery can be performed where a tiny drainage stent is placed in the eye during cataract surgery. Both procedures are designed to reduce pressure in the eye in order to prevent damage to the optic nerve. In more severe cases, a patient may be referred to a glaucoma specialist for their surgery. The surgical procedure they perform is designed to significantly reduce pressure in the eye by using a more invasive incisional approach. There is no cure for glaucoma but if it is caught early and managed properly by an eye doctor, its progression can be slowed greatly allowing the patient to lead a relatively normal lifestyle well into the later seasons of their life.
If a person has been diagnosed with diabetes, they run the risk of getting diabetic retinopathy (bleeding inside the eye) as a side-effect of the disease. This eye disease is common with diabetics and it is the primary reason adults in the United States experience new-onset vision loss. However, having diabetes doesn’t mean that you will lose your vision. By working together with your eye doctor and your primary care physician, it is possible to slow the progression of the disease in its early stages and prevent vision loss.
If diabetic retinopathy does progress, it can be treated with surgery. With diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels within the retina change because of the high levels of blood glucose. The lining of these blood vessels will eventually become damaged causing the lining to thicken. Circulation is negatively affected and these fragile vessels aren’t able to perform their regular functions thereby causing new vessels to form. As the disease progresses these vessels can hemorrhage. If the hemorrhaging is left untreated, blood in the eye can significantly reduce vision and in advanced cases damage the retina and cause blindness.
In its early stages laser surgery can stop the hemorrhaging of these vessels. If the hemorrhaging was more severe, laser surgery can be followed up with a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy which removes blood left in the eye due to the hemorrhaging.
This degenerative eye disease affects a person’s macula, or central vision, and usually affects people over 50 years of age. If left untreated, over time a person will begin to lose their central vision. Some people experience slow progression of macular degeneration while others can experience a faster progression. Macular Degeneration can impact one or both eyes. There is a bleeding and nonbleeding type. The nonbleeding type can be monitored closely by any ophthalmologist. However, patients with the bleeding type of macular degeneration should work closely with a retina specialist to manage the disease. The retina specialist can use a combination of laser treatments and medicinal injections to slow disease progression. Like glaucoma, there is no cure for macular degeneration but its progression can be slowed significantly as long as it is managed regularly by a retina specialist.
One of the most popular eye procedures today is vision-corrective laser surgery. LASIK is an acronym for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. With this procedure, a flap is created on the surface of the cornea using the laser so the inner cornea (stroma) can be accessed and reshaped with the laser. LASIK can be helpful for patients diagnosed with astigmatism, hyperopia or myopia and in most cases can eliminate the need for glasses or contacts up until the patient reaches approximately 40 years of age. It is at this time that most people’s natural lenses begin to lose their ability to accommodate (presbyopia) and it usually becomes necessary to wear glasses for reading and daily tasks requiring near vision.
However, LASIK isn’t for everyone. Patients with thin corneas typically aren’t good candidates for LASIK and will therefore need to discuss other options with their eye doctor. For those patients who are candidates, LASIK is a safe and relatively fast procedure usually taking less than 10 minutes per eye to complete. LASIK also has a very high success rate and patients typically have an immediate improvement in their vision.
About the Author
Dr. Farshid Ighani is a board-certified ophthalmologist in Bedford, TX. He has been in private practice since 2009 and joined Nethery Eye Associates in October 2014. Dr. Ighani specializes in cataract surgery, femto-second laser surgery, the iStent® procedure, LASIK and he provides general ophthalmic care.