Medical Advances Favor
Mehdi Shaaf, M.D., examines a patient who has had successful cataract surgery.
From UAMS Update / DEC., 2000 | Medical advances for the treatment of cataracts have increased dramatically in the past 25 years. The cataract treatment that once involved surgery followed by days of bed rest and limited movement is now an outpatient operation.
“Most of us will develop a cataract, if we live long enough,” said Mehdi Shaaf, M.D., an ophthalmologist and assistant professor in the Jones Eye Institute at UAMS Medical Center. “Cataracts seem to be related to the normal aging process, but exposure to UV rays, hereditary influences, some medications, physical injury, and certain eye and systemic diseases have also been known to play a role in their development. They may come on quickly, but they usually take years to develop. There’s no preset pattern for their development.”
These facts about cataracts help explain this condition:
- A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s normally transparent lens. It blocks or changes the passage of light that is necessary to see.
- A cataract is not contagious, is not an infection and is not tissue growing out of the eye.
- A cataract will not worsen by using your eyes.
- Eyedrops and medications cannot dissolve a cataract or slow down its progression.
- Surgical removal of the cataract is the only treatment.
Most ophthalmologists advise cataract surgery when enough vision is lost to interfere with a patient’s livelihood, recreation or daily activities. The patient and the eye surgeon should work together to decide when surgery may be needed. However, many people never experience visual problems to the point that surgery is advised.
Think of cataract surgery like taking the lens out of a camera. Substitute lens power is needed so that the eye can focus images onto the retina, the way a camera lens focuses images on film. The operation has been perfected to the point where more than 95 out of 100 cases are successful. In fewer than 5 percent of cases, the outcome may be complicated by inflammation, bleeding, infection or retinal detachment.
In the operation, the front lens capsule is cut with a tiny surgical scalpel – breaking up the lens with an ultrasonic needle and then suctioning it out of the eye. Today, a lens implant is used in most cataract operations. This plastic lens is usually placed into the eye to replace the cataract-damaged lens that is removed, although cataract eyeglasses or contact lenses may be used depending on the patient’s situation.
Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness among adults in the United States – accounting for one out of every seven cases of blindness in people 45 years of age and older. “A person no longer has to accept blindness from a cataract as a price of aging,” Dr. Shaaf emphasized. “We have a highly effective and proven method of treatment that can return a patient to a world of vision. If you are experiencing blurred vision, a `film’ over your eyes or problems with getting light bright enough to see well, or if you have to change prescriptions for your eyeglasses very often, please see your eye doctor. Cataracts can be removed. We don’t want you to miss anything!”
For more information about cataracts and cataract surgery, call 501-686-8638. To schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist in the Jones Eye Institute, call 501-686-5822.
Links in this Article
Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute: www.uams.edu/jei/home.htm