YOUR HEALTH: Correcting cataract surgeries

ST LOUIS – Your eyesight is precious, though not always precise.

Cataract surgery can fix the sight impairment for most patients, but 3 percent of those patients suffer from a side effect that may not go away on its own. This side effect is normal even if the surgery is performed correctly.

"Six or seven years ago, I noticed that I was having a lot of trouble driving at night," said 39-year old Sarah Hickey, the mom to two active little guys.

She has no time right now to slow down. Eye trouble was the last thing she expected.

Doctors diagnosed Sarah with cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye. Sarah opted for surgery to remove them, but within a few days she noticed a problem in one of them.

"I almost immediately had a shadow that developed on the lower corner of my eye."

Doctor Arsham Sheybani, an eye specialist at Washington University in St. Louis, says this side effect goes away for most patients, but not all.

"The way the light bends there casts a shadow on the retina, but then patients perceive this as a crescent shadow toward the side," said Dr. Sheybani.

New glasses didn't help Sarah. Neither did a re-positioning of the lens.

That`s when Doctor Sheybani devised a new procedure, he describes as an optic truncation.

"What we do is we start with a really small incision," he said.

Using tiny instruments, Doctor Sheybani lifted the lens up.

"With very, very small scissors we cut the part of the lens that I thought was causing the light to bend abnormally."

Then surgeons put Sarah's lens back into place. The entire procedure took ten minutes.

"When we took the patch off the next day, immediately there was no shadow," she said.

Doctor Sheybani says he and his colleagues performed the shaving procedure more than a year ago and Sarah has had no problem with her lens since that time.

CAUSES & TREATMENTS:  Cataracts occur due to the buildup of protein in the lens of the eye. Most of the time, cataracts can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, but if the prescription doesn’t lead to any results, cataract surgery may be recommended. Cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure in the U.S. with more than 3 million Americans receiving it each year.

The three types of cataracts that exist are:

  • Subcapsular cataract, which occurs in the back of the lens
  • Nuclear cataract, that forms in the deep in the central zone of the lens, and
  • Cortical cataract, characterized by starting in the periphery of the lens and working their way to the center

This condition affects more than 22 million Americans over the age of 40.

(Source: http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/cataracts/what-are-cataracts#1, http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/cataracts.htm & Dr. Arsham Sheybani)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.