Cataracts: Part I


written by: Joel Hunter M.D.
Posted on May 2nd, 2013

If there is anywhere the word beautiful can be used to describe a medical procedure, it is cataract surgery. There is almost no other procedure on the eye, or anywhere else for that matter, where a patient can undergo such a complete transformation from nonfunctional to perfect in such a dramatic way. It is hard to imagine what it is like unless you haven’t been able to see anything clear, even with glasses, for so long that you can’t remember how it once felt. Many years ago, in training at the VA Hospital, I first experienced one of the greatest joys I’ve ever had: performing cataract surgery. It was life-changing to watch peoples’ lives change. I’ve had patients that haven’t been able to read their Bible in years, that can now pick it up and read for themselves what had to be read to them for all those years. I’m going to get emotional. Let me balance it out to say we also had a veteran that thought he owned a brown car for a year until his cataracts were removed and he realized it was cherry red.

We’re going to start doing cataracts at Hunter Vision. “What was the delay?” you say. It is an excellent question, and this blog should give you an answer. To get there, first I need to briefly explain what cataract surgery is. There is a lens inside the eye that you cannot see but that you look through from the time you are born until, well, it gets too cloudy to see through. The lens is made of protein and living tissue just like everything else in your body. And just like everything else, it ages right along with you.

Eventually, this beautiful clear lens actually becomes a hindrance because it is blocking and blurring light as though it were a cloud inside your eye. It oftentimes turns the dark brown color of an old beer bottle. It is at this point that people stop calling it a clear lens and start calling it a cataract. Cataract surgery just means swapping that cloudy lens out for an artificial one that is perfectly clear. There are even artificial lenses now that can allow you to have good reading vision AND good distance vision. It is amazing.

The world of cataract surgery is more exciting than ever, not because of what we as surgeons get to do to fix eyes, but because the new technology in lenses is letting people see in a way that was science fiction a few years ago. People can now have permanent glasses-free vision. To get to what that means for Hunter Vision and our patients, read on with Part 2, which we’ll post tomorrow, because no one should have to read a blog longer than 500 words.

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