Honor and Privilege

Doctors know where to go for cataract surgery.

Glaucoma specialist Jeffrey Schwartz, MD, is now a year into his third decade as a member of the team of vision care experts at The Eye Institute of West Florida. It’s a decade that got off to a rather interesting beginning.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Dr. Robert Weinstock (left) with Dr. Schwartz

In early January 2018, Dr. Schwartz noticed he was no longer seeing as clearly as he was accustomed to out of his right eye, which had long been the eye that needed the stronger prescription contact or eyeglass lens to bring his overall vision to 20/20.

“I wear contact lenses about ninety percent of the time, the major exception being when I operate,’’ Dr. Schwartz explains. “When I operate, I don’t wear contact lenses or glasses because I can see better through the microscope without them.

“What I noticed, however, was that with or without my contact lenses or glasses – and my glasses were fairly new at the time – I wasn’t seeing as well out of my right eye as I was out of my left eye. Naturally, that concerned me a little bit.”

Dr. Schwartz’s concerns prompted him to get a routine eye examination, which showed that the vision in his right eye had indeed deteriorated a bit. A new pair of glasses did not correct the problem, however.

“That’s when I began to assume the worst,’’ Dr. Schwartz reveals. “I was worried I might have a retina problem or possibly even glaucoma. Thankfully, further examinations showed there was no pathology. What there was, however, was a cataract.”

How Cataracts Develop

Cataracts develop naturally as a result of either a breakdown of the eye’s lens fibers or a clumping of the eye’s proteins or both. They usually result in blurred vision, an increase in the eye’s sensitivity to light and/or a reduction in the vibrancy of colors.

There is no known way to prevent or slow the development of cataracts, which typically form as part of the natural aging process. But surgery to remove cataracts has become one of the more common procedures in all of medicine.

More than four million cataract surgeries are performed each year in the United States alone, and up until about five years ago, Dr. Schwartz was performing some cataract surgery at The Eye Institute of West Florida. However, cataract surgery has become more sophisticated, with advanced techniques, specialized laser technologies and customized intraocular lens solutions.

“It’s a painless, easy operation that changes your quality of life like no other operation in existence.” – Dr. Schwartz

He has since turned those duties over to other physicians at the practice. After learning of his diagnosis and deciding he needed to correct the problem immediately, he knew exactly whom he wanted to perform his surgery.

“I’m an unusual patient in that I have knowledge that most people don’t have about cataract surgery,” Dr. Schwartz reveals. “That’s why I always recommend that people opting for cataract surgery see someone who specializes solely in refractive cataract surgery.

“I believe experience and technology lead to the best outcome, and I know for certain that The Eye Institute of West Florida has not only the most experienced surgeons but also the state-of-the-art technology that allows for that outcome.”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

When Dr. Schwartz (left) learned he needed cataract surgery, he trusted his friend and associate Dr. Weinstock (right) to do the job.

A Matter of Trust

One of those surgeons is Robert J. Weinstock, MD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained cataract and refractive surgeon who has been practicing at The Eye Institute of West Florida since 2001 and is now the director of cataract and refractive services at the center.

Dr. Weinstock has performed cataract surgery on many fellow eye surgeons and physicians, but he says it was a special honor to be chosen by Dr. Schwartz to perform a procedure so important to his life and his life’s work.

“It’s a very high compliment, one of the highest compliments an eye surgeon can receive, to have another eye surgeon say they trust you with their vision,’’ Dr. Weinstock says. “It comes with a great deal of responsibility.

“And in the case of Dr. Schwartz, well, this is a practicing ophthalmologist who does microscopic eye surgery. When you consider how detailed his vision needs to be, you realize it’s not just his well-being that’s at stake but the well-being of his patients.

“That’s why we decided not to wait to do his surgery. His cataract was mild, one that other people who don’t require such perfect vision for their job could have waited maybe a little longer to address.

“But with Dr. Schwartz, when you consider his line of work, it was critical that we do the surgery sooner rather than later, so he could perform glaucoma surgery on his patients.”

Once the decision was made to have the surgery, Dr. Schwartz had to decide on the type of lens to use. On the advice of Dr. Weinstock, he chose a monofocal lens designed to improve his distance vision and laser astigmatism correction at the same time.

“We didn’t want to go with a bifocal or multifocal lens because with his occupation, we need all light rays focusing together,’’ Dr. Weinstock says. “We were also treating just the one eye, and that plays a part in that decision as well.

“The brain doesn’t tolerate it very well when you have a multifocal implant in one eye and your natural lens or a monofocal in the other. So, we chose a lens that provides very high contrast, crystal-clear optics and great distance vision.”

Rolling Back the Years

Dr. Weinstock performed the surgery using a laser to correct Dr. Schwartz’s astigmatism and soften the old lens. He then used a special machine called the ORA™ to ensure Dr. Schwartz was left with the clearest vision possible.

“The ORA measures the eye once the cataract is out and gives us information about the prescription of the eye and which exact power lens is going to match up well with that eye,” Dr. Weinstock informs.

The surgery was performed late on a Thursday. By Friday, Dr. Schwartz says he was seeing 20/20 out of his right eye without glasses or contact lenses. By the following Monday, he was back at work and seeing better than he had in years.

“By the time I returned to work on Monday, my eye was not red or irritated in any way, and my vision had returned to what it was fifteen or twenty years ago,’’ Dr. Schwartz relates. “And I just can’t tell you how much that changes your life.

“When I get up in the morning now, my vision is crisp and clear, and colors are much brighter. And I had only a mild cataract. Still, the difference it has made having that cataract removed has been drastic.

“With every patient I speak to now who is considering having cataract surgery, I tell them, Look at my eye, because a month ago I had cataract surgery, and now, I’m seeing as clear as I’ve seen since I was a kid.

“It’s a painless, easy operation that changes your quality of life like no other operation in existence. And when you have a specialist such as Dr. Weinstock perform that surgery with the science and technology we have now, you can and should expect incredible outcomes.”

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