5 things to consider before cataract surgery
BY KAREN HUELSMAN - For Sun-Times Media
Although surgery to remove cataracts has become commonplace, ophthalmologists are happy to report that new surgical methods and lens implants are giving patients wider choices than ever before.
Jasmeet Dhaliwal, an ophthalmologist with Hauser-Ross Eye Institute and Surgicenter in Sycamore, explained that as many people age, the eyes can develop a "cloudy" area that blocks light and impairs vision.
He said often people will notice that they can't read the sports scores or news ticker on the television or that there is an increase in annoying glare when they drive at night.
Cataracts develop painlessly, and can grow slowly or quite quickly. So it's important to recognize even gradual changes in vision so that they can be evaluated. Although they are very common in older adults, cataracts can develop at any age, especially in patients who have had an eye injury or have diabetes.
Dr. Dhaliwal specializes in treating cataracts, and often gives free health education lectures on the topic in association with Valley West Community Hospital in Sandwich.
"One of the best things about cataract surgery is that the results can be quick," Dr. Dhaliwal said. "Most patients usually see improvement within a week of the surgery, and sometimes even within a day."
Traditional cataract surgery involves removing the clouding and placing an artificial intraocular lens in the eye. The traditional implant will correct vision either close up or far away, but not both. Patients usually still need glasses after surgery to read and for distance.
Newer implants go beyond the either/or scenario. "With new technology we push to restore vision so the patient can see far and near without glasses." he said. The goal of these implants is to be independent of glasses 90 percent of the time."
The newer implants also can correct astigmatism, which is helpful for seeing clearly at a distance. It's important to talk to your surgeon about the options, because insurance coverage varies according to the type of implant chosen.
In general, private insurance and Medicare cover the surgery and traditional implants. When a patient chooses a new technology implant, insurance generally only covers the procedure and not the cost of the implants.
"While not everyone is a good candidate for the newer lenses, traditional surgery is an option for most people," Dr. Dhaliwal said.
Whether a patient or a patient's family is considering surgery, Dr. Dhaliwal recommended considering these issues:
- Which implant is best for me?
- What are my risks for complications?
- What is my general eye health?
- How dependent will I be on eyeglasses?
- When is the best time to act on this?
The modern procedure to remove a cataract is relatively quick and not too uncomfortable and is most often performed at an outpatient surgical center. Patients return to the ophthalmologist the following day, and then one week and three weeks after surgery.
Dr. Dhaliwal, who has been in practice about five years, gives regular educational programs at Valley West twice a year. Check the Valley West website at http://www.valleywest.org/programs/ for future wellness programs.