Advanced Technology in Cataract Surgery

Options to improve quality of life.

Photo courtesy of Wilma Tucker.

Wilma Tucker

Cataracts are a normal part of aging, but cataract surgery isn’t just for the elderly. A recent study published in the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery found that more middle-aged patients (age 65 and under) are having cataract surgery—and at younger ages.

62-year-old Wilma Tucker was one of the many middle-aged patients who assumed she was too young for cataract surgery, despite the challenges with her sight.

“When I was watching TV, I couldn’t read the type on the screen from where I was sitting on my sofa,” Wilma says.

She knew her vision was changing when she couldn’t spot her friends during a night out.

“I had scanned the restaurant and I was like, Where are they?” Wilma remembers. “Finally, one of them walked up to me and said, We’re over here. I couldn’t find them, even though they were right in front of me.” 

Then Wilma’s twin sister had cataract surgery. Wilma went to see her eye doctor and found out she had cataracts as well.

“I thought I would need to wait years for surgery,” Wilma says. “But I thought it would be wonderful not to have to wear these thick glasses anymore. Once my sister had surgery, I realized I could get it, too.”

Wilma’s optometrist referred her to Rajesh Shetty, M.D., a board-certified and fellowship-trained ophthalmologist at Florida Eye Specialists.

“Now we’re doing cataract surgery at a much earlier age because of safety,” Dr. Shetty explains. “Twenty years ago, the benefit of surgery was comparable to the risk. But thanks to advances in technology, cataract surgery is safer and provides better outcomes than ever, so patients now don’t have to live with impaired vision. We don’t have to wait.”

Time To Act

“A cataract is the clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision,” says Dr. Shetty. “By age 80, more than half of Americans have been diagnosed with a cataract or have had cataract surgery. However, many of my patients don’t realize that cataracts can begin to develop early, in their forties and fifties.” 

Dr. Shetty says cataracts develop slowly and painlessly over time. In the early stages, symptoms may be so mild that patients don’t realize their vision is changing. But as a person ages, cataracts can grow to the point where they can get in the way of living an active, independent life. 

“Cataracts can affect night vision, meaning you may not be able to drive home from work in the evening,” Dr. Shetty says. “As people continue to work later and later in life, this becomes a big problem for our patients.”

Those with advanced cataracts may also experience symptoms like blurry vision, double vision, sensitivity to glare and light, fading colors, and they may need to change their prescriptions for glasses or contacts more frequently. 

Dr. Shetty explains that younger patients who undergo cataract surgery tend to heal more quickly, resume normal activity more rapidly, and enjoy better vision results. That’s beneficial, since vision needs have become more demanding with advances in technology and today’s active adult lifestyle.

“Vision needs have changed a lot,” Dr. Shetty says. “We spend much more time looking at phones and other devices, with our friends and family communicating with us constantly. We’re traveling more, looking at GPS, driving during dusk, dawn, rain, and nighttime. We’re playing golf and reading. The demand for clear vision at all ages is the highest it’s ever been.”

Next Generation

Wilma had cataract surgery earlier this year and says it was painless.

“The experience at Florida Eye Specialists was exceptional,” she says. “They’re so thorough. They have so much experience. They made me feel very at ease. I was very blessed to have doctors like this available to me.”

Wilma received a type of advanced cataract surgery known as laser cataract surgery. Unlike traditional cataract surgery, where a scalpel is used to make an incision in the eye by hand, laser cataract surgery is computer guided. Dr. Shetty says this results in a safer, gentler procedure. The laser also creates a more precise and accurate outcome. This allows eye surgeons to correct a wide range of vision problems, including astigmatism and far- and near-sightedness at the time of cataract surgery.

Dr. Shetty has had great experience with this procedure. Florida Eye Specialists was the first practice in Northeast Florida to offer laser cataract surgery to patients and has performed nearly 7,000 procedures to date.

In addition to laser cataract surgery, Dr. Shetty says the latest technology in premium cataract surgery are the advances in intraocular lens (IOL) technology. An intraocular lens is the artificial lens that is implanted in the eye during cataract surgery after the eye’s cloudy natural lens has been removed.

While surgeons have been using these lenses for decades, today’s versions offer crisper, higher quality vision and more function than they’ve ever provided before, according to Dr. Shetty.

“Now, we have the ability to correct near, intermediate and far vision at the same time. It’s called trifocal lens technology, and it’s the number one used lens in Europe,” says Dr. Shetty. “The first trifocal lens came out in the U.S. this fall in 2019. We’ve had a great experience with it so far.”

Wilma received a toric multifocal lens, designed for patients with astigmatism.

“It’s just amazing,” Wilma says. “My vision is even better than I expected to have. It’s the best it’s ever been.”

“Wilma was not a good contact lens wearer because of her dry eye and astigmatism,” Dr. Shetty recalls. “It was so great to see her without her glasses. Her smile just lit up, she was thrilled. No glasses, but able to see far and near. She’s an active individual, so that’s important.”

“To wake up in the morning and not have to put my glasses on, it’s been life-changing,” Wilma says.

Like Wilma, many patients have particular vision needs. With the many kinds of intraocular lenses now available, eye surgeons can choose the best fit for each patient.

“At Florida Eye Specialists, our practice focuses on each individual’s needs,” says Dr. Shetty. “As we’ve gotten more sophisticated in our technology, we see patients that need better night vision, patients that have had prior refractive surgery, golfers who may need better vision during daylight. It’s not one size fits all. Now, we can customize the lens to the patient’s lifestyle.” 

Today, cataract surgery offers patients the opportunity to not only restore their vision, but to possibly see better than they ever have before. It can reduce dependency on glasses and make daily activities like reading and driving easy again.

“We do what we do because we can improve people’s lives,” Dr. Shetty says. “You lose so many faculties and abilities as you age, skills you didn’t realize you were losing, your energy, how fast you think and run. But here’s one area of your life you can actually improve upon. You can see better, function better, and do things you haven’t done in years. These are truly phenomenal results.”

Eye surgeons recommend that patients aged 60 and older have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataracts, your eye care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders.

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    • Florida Eye Specialists

      For almost 50 years, the dedicated eye care specialists at Florida Eye Specialists have been pioneers in new eye treatments, setting the standard for eye care in Florida. Their team is committed to advancing ophthalmology and ensuring bett... Read More

    • Rajesh K. Shetty, M.D.

      Rajesh K. Shetty, M.D., is a board-certified, double fellowship-trained ophthalmologist specializing in cataract and glaucoma surgeries. He is currently the CEO and Managing Partner of Florida Eye Specialists and the surgery center. Prior to fo... Read More