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Vision Reimagined: Patricia’s Experience with Cataract Surgery and Improved Glaucoma Management

Learn how Patricia's quality of life improved as she bid farewell to cataracts and reduced her glaucoma medication thanks to Dr. Hummel's expertise

The aerospace and travel division of the Honeywell Corp. has supported NASA for more than six decades. The team’s many contributions to space exploration included producing the system that propelled and controlled the space shuttle. Patricia Mairn was a part of that division for more than three decades. “I worked in procurement and was what is known in the industry as a ‘bulk material buyer,’” Patricia explains. “I bought hardware and wire, glue, paint and chemicals, all the stuff you need to put a space shuttle together.” It was happenstance that Patricia became aware of the job. “I started at a local pharmacy when I was 16 or 17 years old, and I worked there a long time,” she says. “Then a friend of mine who worked at Honeywell called me and said, There’s an opening. Do you want to work there?” I said, Yeah, I’d love to try that. So, I started at Honeywell and was in the purchasing department for 33 years. “I retired in 2015. I don’t do a whole lot now. I sleep in, hang out with my family and friends, watch TV, and enjoy life. I also paint, mostly ceramics. I’ve been doing ceramics since the ’80s, and I really enjoy it.” While Patricia, 72, enjoys her life, there is one aspect she doesn’t appreciate. For nearly 20 years, she’s grappled with glaucoma, a group of eye disorders associated with an increase in fluid pressure in the eyes. Consistently high intraocular pressure, or IOP, can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. When Patricia was diagnosed, her primary care physician referred her to The Eye Institute of West Florida, where doctors managed her glaucoma with prescription eyedrops that are designed to lower IOP by decreasing the fluid produced by the eyes. In recent years, Patricia also developed cataracts, an age-related clouding of the lenses caused by a buildup of protein deposits. The only treatment is surgery to remove the affected lenses, which she opted to do when the condition began to affect her vision. “The cataract symptoms had been coming on for a while,” Patricia details. “It started with blurry vision and faded colors. I was shocked by how faded colors had become. I quit driving at night a couple of years ago, but I don’t know if the problems with night driving were from my cataracts or the glaucoma. “I knew I had to have cataract surgery, but I kept putting it off. The eye doctor kept saying, Whenever you’re ready. And then one day, I was ready.” Typically, cataract surgery is performed on one eye at a time, a week or two apart. Each procedure takes a few minutes and starts with the breakup and removal of the lens. Next, a synthetic replacement lens known as an intraocular lens, or IOL, is implanted. IOLs come in different focusing powers to correct a variety of vision issues. “I wanted the surgery done in St. Petersburg because it would be easier on my family, but the eye doctor I was seeing doesn’t perform surgery in St. Petersburg, so she referred me to Dr. Hummel,” Patricia recounts.

MIGS Benefits

Chad Hummel, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained ophthalmologist. He specializes in cataract and refractive surgery. He also performs minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS), which is typically done at the time of cataract surgery. During his first meeting with Patricia, Dr. Hummel explained the types of MIGS and recommended one as an add-on to her cataract surgery. “That procedure is called a goniotomy,” Dr. Hummel educates. “I chose goniotomy over other types of MIGS, such as implanting stents, because it has a very quick healing time and is typically effective. “During a goniotomy, I make a small incision in the trabecular meshwork, which is essentially a filter inside the eye that drains the fluid. Many times, that’s where the flow of fluid from the eye gets slowed down. “By opening up the meshwork, we create a canal through which fluid can more efficiently leave the eye and the pressure goes down. In about 80 percent of most cases, patients who undergo goniotomy can eliminate one of their glaucoma eyedrops.” The reduced use of eyedrops is one of the benefits of MIGS. The side effects associated with using glaucoma eyedrops include stinging, eye redness, blurry vision, dry eye, a bad taste in the mouth and upset stomach. “And because patients are putting in the drops at certain times of the day, their IOP can fluctuate,” Dr. Hummel points out. “When the drops take effect, the pressure goes down. But once the drops begin to wear off, the pressure increases again.” “When we do something procedural, such as a goniotomy, the canal we open in the meshwork is going to always be there. It produces a much more stable decrease in eye pressure.” MIGS procedures add little in terms of time to cataract surgery. Performing a goniotomy, for example, adds only about two minutes to the time it takes to perform cataract surgery, which can be done in about five or seven minutes, according to Dr. Hummel. Goniotomy is also typically covered by medical insurance. “There are some MIGS that can be performed on their own,” the doctor expounds. “But the majority of the time, we do MIGS along with cataract surgery. The patient is already prepped for surgery and in the operating room. Doing the procedures together saves time, improves recovery and eliminates the costs of another surgery.”

“Wonderful” Vision

Dr. Hummel performed the combined cataract surgery and goniotomy on one of Patricia’s eyes in mid-April. The other eye was completed May 1. Patricia is amazed by the positive impact those procedures had on her vision. “My vision is wonderful, and the colors are beautiful again,” she enthuses. “I didn’t get the premium replacement lenses, so I have to wear glasses for close-up vision, but that’s fine by me. I’ve been wearing glasses a long time, and they don’t bother me. Dr. Hummel suggested I get some cheap readers to see close up.” Patricia says she hasn’t tried driving at night yet, but she plans to try that again now that her vision has improved. Patricia also reports that her eye pressure has dropped to a near normal level since undergoing MIGS. As a result, she has stopped using one of the eyedrops she was prescribed. “The whole point of doing the goniotomy was to get me off some of my eyedrops for glaucoma, which really aren’t that good for you,” Patricia states. “Dr. Hummel wanted to get me off one particular drug, which has bad side effects. After the procedure, I went without that medication for one month, and my eye pressure was acceptable. “I’ll get my eye pressure rechecked every three months, but now I just use two eyedrops for my glaucoma instead of three.” Patricia says she is extremely pleased with the outcome of her cataract surgery and goniotomy. She’s also very impressed with the skill and manner of the surgeon who performed those procedures. “Dr. Hummel is wonderful, so kind and attentive,” she raves. “Sometimes, I ramble on when I’m with him, and he’s fine with that. He just sits there patiently and listens to me. “And all through surgery, he was right there in my ear, explaining everything he was doing and telling me how things were going. It was very calming to have him there doing that, and my surgeries were very successful.”

Chad Hummel, MD

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