Cataract Exam Reveals Evidence Of Stroke

Ophthalmologist makes a life-saving diagnosis during routine eye evaluation.

Before Thomas Insley retired in 2016, he sold mattresses for a Tampa retailer for nearly 17 years. The Washington, DC, native viewed the job as a calling to “help people sleep better.” But selling mattresses was a far cry from his early vocation as a gemologist.

Thomas Insley

“My father was a watchmaker and we decided that once I graduated from school we would open a small jewelry business in Crystal City, Virginia,” recounts Thomas, 64. “That’s where I started my career. I worked for 19 years as a jeweler in our store.

“After that, I traveled as a salesperson. I journeyed to Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee wholesaling diamonds, precious stones and jewelry.”

After spending several years on the road, Thomas decided to stop driving and settle down in one location. He and his wife had a choice of communities to call home.

“We had the opportunity to go to New Hampshire or Tampa,” he recollects. “My wife said she wasn’t going to go up north and listen to the seats crack in the wintertime, so we came down to Florida. That was in 1998, and I soon began selling mattresses.”

Thomas is thankful that his traveling sales days are far behind him because health issues, including one that greatly affected his vision, began to intensify.

“Initially, I had a problem with diabetes,” Thomas describes. “My average blood sugar over three months (A1c) was 12, which is extremely high. (The goal is less than seven.) My primary care doctor started me on diabetes medications and my blood sugar eventually went down.

“Then last March, I suddenly realized I couldn’t see clearly out of my left eye. I was already having trouble seeing out of my right eye, so I wasn’t able to drive anymore. When I went to my primary care doctor to see what was wrong, he referred me to Dr. Taylor.”

Lead Detective

Lawrence C. Taylor, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist at Brandon Eye Associates. While evaluating Thomas’ eyes, Dr. Taylor observed a matured cataract in his right eye and a partial cataract in his left eye.

Cataracts develop as a result of protein buildup in the lens. They are a common problem related to aging, but they were actually the least of Thomas’ problems.

The greater concern Dr. Taylor uncovered was a right homonymous hemianopsia, a condition that causes a person to see only one side of the vision field – left or right – in both eyes.

“The only way patients can get blockages in the same area of their vision in both eyes simultaneously is from a brain defect, either a tumor or a stroke,” Dr. Taylor educates. “The vast majority of times it’s a stroke, which can be confirmed on a brain scan.”

To verify the defect, Dr. Taylor ordered an MRI, which showed that Thomas had unknowingly suffered a stroke. Dr. Taylor then referred Thomas back to his primary care physician.

“This is an example of a routine exam revealing a larger problem, which could have been fatal.” – Dr. Taylor

“My primary care doctor told me that before I could have cataract surgery, I had to get checked out by a neurologist and cardiologist,” Thomas remembers. “The neurologist said, Go ahead and get your eyes done. Best of luck! My cardiologist had different ideas.”

During a vascular examination, the cardiologist learned Thomas had significant coronary artery disease, a buildup of clogging plaque in the walls of the arteries that supply the heart.

“I told him I got cramps in my legs when I cut the grass and felt a little pain in my chest,” Thomas says of his visit with the cardiologist. “He scheduled me for an angioplasty to place stents in my clogged arteries to improve blood flow through my heart.

“But when they were checking my heart for that procedure, they quickly removed the catheter and sent me upstairs for open heart surgery. I received a triple bypass. That was last May. It wasn’t until October that I was able to finally get my cataracts out.”

Back to Cataracts

Studies show that by the time they reach age 65, more than 90 percent of all people will have developed a cataract. However, factors other than aging, including diabetes, can cause the condition to develop at a younger age.

Dr. Taylor believes diabetes was a major factor in the formation of Thomas’ cataracts.

The only treatment for cataracts is surgery, typically performed on one eye at a time, with a break of a week or two in between.

Cataract surgery starts with the breakup and removal of the clouded lens, which is replaced by an artificial lens that permanently corrects the vision.

After being forced to wait several months, Thomas was eager for Dr. Taylor to remove cataracts. He was impressed by the ease of the surgery and very pleased with the results.

“The surgery didn’t take very long, 15 to 20 minutes at most,” Thomas enthuses. “Afterward, they put a patch on my eye and placed a protector around it so it didn’t get hit. The procedure didn’t hurt; it was pretty painless.

“Dr. Taylor tested my eyes at my follow-up visit. My left eye was 20/20 and my right eye was 20/25, so my vision improved significantly. I can see better now than I ever could. I can see to drive and do pretty much anything else I want to do.”

Thomas couldn’t be happier with Dr. Taylor’s work, for the cataract surgery and for alerting him to the more serious issue affecting his heart.

“Dr. Taylor is very nice and very capable,” Thomas raves. “He did a steady job of removing my cataracts. He actually talked to me when I had my surgery, so I was very relaxed. He really put me at ease.”

Dr. Taylor explains he was just one part of a team of doctors who worked to resolve Thomas’ more serious health issue.

“This is an example of a routine exam revealing a larger problem, which could have been fatal,” he concludes. “Essentially, I was the lead detective in this case because I uncovered Thomas’ stroke. His primary care physician and cardiologist took the case from there and performed the treatments that may have saved his life.”

© FHCN staff article. Photo by Jordan Pysz. js


As seen in Brandon/Sun City Edition of Florida Health Care News.

Print This Article
    • Brandon Eye Associates, PA

      The doctors at Brandon Eye Associates use their hearts to help care for your eyes. In addition to being lauded, board-certified physicians at the height of their careers, your Brandon, Sun City Center and Plant City Ophthalmologists are car... Read More

    • Lawrence C. Taylor, Jr., MD

      Lawrence C. Taylor, Jr., MD, earned his undergraduate degree from Florida Southern College and his medical degree from the University of South Florida College of Medicine. He completed an internship year of training at Greenville Hospital S... Read More