Laser cataract surgery helps reduce need for glasses.
Linda Hardy noticed she was having trouble driving at night. Glare from oncoming headlights made it difficult for her to see.
“I would tell people, I can meet you for dinner, but we’re going to have to go early so I can get home before dark,” she shares.
She is 66, a grandmother and works in a quality assurance department. The self-imposed driving restriction felt a little strange.
“I felt like a young teen whose mom and dad are saying, You have to be home before dark!” says Linda.
An eye exam by Linda’s optometrist revealed she had cataracts, the natural clouding of the lens that gradually obstructs vision. Cataracts are common with age; in fact, nearly half of all Americans have cataracts by 75, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Difficulty driving at night is a common symptom, and Linda noticed other signs. Normally, she loved to read, but it was becoming a struggle. Working on the computer was more difficult, too.
“I would say my eyes got progressively worse over six months. But when I decided I couldn’t drive at night anymore, I said, I’ve got to get in to see the doctor,” she recalls.
Linda made an appointment with Jeffrey M. Davis, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon at Coastal Eye Institute.
The Best Option
It was her second visit with Dr. Davis, whom Linda’s sister had recommended. Her first visit had been six months earlier, after she learned from her optometrist that she had cataracts.
During her initial consultation, Linda immediately liked Dr. Davis’ approach.
“I felt very comfortable with him. He’s really smart and knows his stuff. He’s conservative. I didn’t feel like he’s the kind of doctor who is going to jump in and do surgery,” she explains. “I had complete trust in him.”
At that time, Linda’s cataracts weren’t affecting her night vision. Through talking with Dr. Davis, she decided the need for surgery wasn’t immediate.
“Linda and I had a pretty long discussion about cataracts,” notes Dr. Davis. “A lot of patients will come in and ask me, Do I need cataract surgery? A lot of times, my answer is, Do you? The timing for surgery will be a little bit different for everybody. It really depends on how cataracts are interfering with their vision and bothering them.”
Linda decided the time was right when her night vision grew worse. She then had to determine, with guidance from Dr. Davis, what she wanted cataract surgery to achieve.
During the surgery, the natural, clouded lens is removed and replaced by a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL). One eye is done at a time, usually a few weeks apart. The minimally invasive procedure is typically completed in less than 15 minutes, and patients resume normal activities right away.
Because of advancements over the past decade, patients now have a wide choice of IOLs. They range from standard monofocal lenses to more advanced lenses that can eliminate or reduce the need for glasses.
“We have a lot of options, so that’s when I’ve got to really listen and find out what is going to make the person happiest,” observes Dr. Davis.
Linda had worn glasses since she was a teenager because of nearsightedness. She also had astigmatism, a common misshape of the cornea that impairs vision without glasses.
“Linda wanted to be glasses independent for distance vision. She didn’t care about needing reading glasses – she just wanted to have the best distance vision she could,” says Dr. Davis.
With Dr. Davis’ guidance, Linda chose to have an IOL that sharpened distance vision. During the cataract surgery, Dr. Davis also corrected her astigmatism through limbal relaxing incisions for optimal results. Tiny incisions are made in the cornea to help give it a rounder, more symmetrical shape and improve vision.
“It Was Awesome!”
Dr. Davis used an advanced femtosecond laser for Linda’s cataract surgery and the limbal relaxing incisions. In the past, the incisions were made manually, but the laser offers far more precision.
“The precision of the laser is far superior to the manual technique. We’re able to control it down to the micron level,” notes Dr. Davis.
The results were everything Linda wanted.
“The surgery was pain free. I wasn’t anxious or scared, and recovery was immediate,” she reports.
To her delight, she doesn’t need glasses when driving.
“It is so amazing to be able to look into the distance and read road signs without my glasses,” she raves. “Driving in the rain isn’t a problem, and it’s easy for me to drive at night. I even drove to Tampa in the dark and wasn’t fearful. It was awesome!
“I have 20/20 distance vision now. When I saw Dr. Davis for a follow-up visit, I told him, You rock! I was just so happy that I could have hugged him.”