Sight-Saving Discovery

Cataract exam reveals dangerous eye disorder.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner that you’re dropping by for, when you walk into Vero Beach’s legendary C.J. Cannon’s Restaurant and Lounge, you’re almost sure to be greeted by its effervescent matriarch, Patricia Cannon.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Patricia Cannon

Tucked away inside the tiny terminal of the Vero Beach Airport, C.J. Cannon’s claims to overlook only one thing – the airport runway. Since it opened 36 years ago, Patricia has made sure that motto stands up.

“We think of our place as a restaurant in an airport, not an airport restaurant, and I’m there 15 hours a day doing a little bit of everything,” says Patricia, 79. “I’m the hostess and cashier, and sometimes I tend bar, wash dishes and bus tables.

“Whatever’s needed, I do it, because we usually serve between 500 and 600 people a day, so we stay very busy. And we make all our own soups and offer a full menu, including our five-star prime rib dinner, every day.”

As indicated by her work schedule, Patricia is a woman who likes to stay busy, and she recently had to get busy taking care of a medical issue that was discovered after she began to experience difficulty seeing the restaurant cash register.

“It was probably about eight months ago that I first noticed I wasn’t seeing the cash register very well, and after that it just got worse and worse,” Patricia explains. “Pretty soon I started having trouble driving at night, which is a real problem for me.

“I usually get to the restaurant about 5:30 in the morning, and I go home about 9 or 10, so it’s always dark when I drive. That was a problem because I was seeing a lot of glare from the headlights coming at me. I knew I had to do something about it.”

A contact lens wearer for 30 years, Patricia knew exactly where to turn for help for her vision issues because she regularly sees employees of another Vero Beach institution – the Center for Advanced Eye Care – at C.J. Cannon’s.

Double Trouble

After asking a couple of the center’s employees for advice, Patricia made an appointment with William J. Mallon, MD. During his initial examination, Dr. Mallon found two issues that needed to be addressed.

The first was cataracts in both eyes. A clouding of the eye’s natural lens that develops naturally as part of the aging process, cataracts were the cause of Patricia’s failing vision, Dr. Mallon explains.

“The other thing I found was a condition called pseudoexfoliation,” Dr. Mallon reports. “It’s a condition that causes glaucoma in a fairly large percentage of patients. In fact, a significant number of glaucoma patients have this subtype.”

There are different types of glaucoma, but what is common among them is that they result in damage to the nerve connecting the eye to the brain. The damage is usually caused by high eye pressure, which can lead to vision loss.

In patients with pseudoexfoliation, physicians typically find a white flaky material on the anterior capsule of the eye and sometimes on the iris and around the pupil as well. The condition can also keep the pupils from dilating normally.

It is a condition that can also create difficulties during cataract surgery, which calls for the physician to remove the patient’s clouded natural lens and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens, or IOL.

Because pseudoexfoliation can damage or destroy the ligaments that hold the lens in place, it can cause dislocation of the replacement lens. That’s one reason physicians prefer not to wait to perform cataract surgery when treating patients with pseudoexfoliation.

“The sooner the better, just because of its effect on the long-term glaucoma and the ability to do the surgery,” Dr. Mallon confirms. “The longer you have pseudoexfoliation, the more likely it is you’re going to run into problems with poor dilation during surgery.

“That can make the surgery a little more difficult. So too can the potential issues you might have with the ligaments. The other thing to keep in mind is that cataract surgery can actually lower eye pressure.

“After cataract surgery, many glaucoma patients experience a reduction in eye pressure. A lot of them can even come off medication. There’s a great benefit in terms of the effect on glaucoma and eye pressure that we get when we take out the cataracts.”

Patricia was unaware of the psuedoexfoliations so she was not taking medication for it prior to seeing Dr. Mallon. After learning of the condition, she was quick to agree to the doctor’s suggestion that she immediately undergo cataract surgery.

With a break of a week or two in between, physicians usually perform cataract surgery in an outpatient setting, correcting one eye at a time using an ultrasonic device to break up and remove the lens. Once the lens is removed, it is replaced with the IOL, which permanently corrects the vision.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Patricia greets everyone with a smile.

The type of IOL is decided upon by the patient and the physician prior to surgery. Standard IOLs primarily correct distance vision, but patients can opt for multifocal IOLs that correct distance, near and intermediate vision, or have one eye fixed for distance vision and the other fixed for near vision.

Better Than Ever

The latter option is called monovision. Patricia chose that because she has long worn contact lenses that corrected one eye for distance and the other for near vision. The result of her surgery, she says, has been nothing short of remarkable.

“First of all, everything is so much brighter now, and colors are so much more vivid,” she says. “I guess you really don’t know how bad your vision is until you get this done, but what a difference. I can even read the fine print now when I’m reading.

“My vision is so much better that the other day I noticed my baseboards needed a good cleaning.That’s how much better I’m seeing now. I can read everything and drive without any problems.

“The surgery has been great for me, and I just love Dr. Mallon, and his whole staff. They have treated me like a queen since I first walked in there.”

Patricia’s treatment includes regular monitoring of the pressure in her eyes to ensure her psuedoexfoliation doesn’t worsen. That treatment is one of the many reasons Patricia raves about Dr. Mallon.

“Everything about his office is so professional,” she concludes. “Everyone there is just wonderful. I highly recommend Dr. Mallon at the Center for Advanced Eye Care because he’s the best.”

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