Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, affecting millions of people every day. June is Cataract Awareness Month, so we sat down with Dr. Luke Barker of Mann Eye Institute and Laser Center to discuss cataracts, their impact on the population, and ways to treat them.
What are cataracts, how do they form, and what effects do they have on the eye?
In layman’s terms, Cataracts are part of the natural aging process which eventually will affect all of us. Cataracts are a hardening and darkening of the natural clear lens of our eye that happens over time. It can be accelerated by certain diseases like diabetes, trauma, steroid use, etc. Symptoms include a gradual decrease in vision (both for distance and for reading), increased light sensitivity, glare at night and muted colors. Overall, they slowly affect your ability to do normal activities of daily living, such as cooking, driving, hobbies and reading.
Tell me about the first cataract surgery you performed.
With the first surgery any surgeon performs, there is definitely more nervous energy that goes into a case, and you want it to go perfect. My first case was in 2006, about 10 years ago at the VA hospital in Temple, and I felt very honored to be able to do a surgery on a veteran who had served our country. I was very eager to help him achieve the vision he had in previous years. Of course the technology has improved over the last ten years, but even with previous technology, the patient had a great outcome and was able to return to his hobbies, including doing his annual trip to the beaches in Normandy, France, which was very rewarding for me.
If you had to estimate, around how many cataract surgeries have you performed so far?
During my career I have had the privilege of performing Cataract surgery on thousands of patients.
Earlier this year, you performed cataract surgeries during Mann Eye’s mission trip to Belize. How does the cataract problem in third-world countries differ from the cataract problem in U.S.?
The problem is more extensive outside of well-developed countries because of numerous factors. Poor nutrition and exposure to other diseases and trauma are common. There is also limited access to health care which is why cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world even though they’re extremely simple to treat.
With the prevalence of cataracts being so high, what measures need to be taken to bring these numbers down?
Number one, awareness. And number two, access. That applies both in the U.S. and other developed countries reaching out to aid with medical missions, and third world countries further developing their own internal healthcare systems.
What preventative measures can people take to circumvent the development or progression of cataracts?
Annual eye health examinations with your eye doctor, especially after the age of 40, help monitor for cataracts and other eye diseases. A diet rich in antioxidants, treating other medical conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and allergies, and wearing polarized eye protection can also help.
What treatments, procedures does Mann Eye offer cataract patients?
The world of options for patients with cataracts is greater than ever with our current technologies and offerings at Mann Eye Institute. We offer all forms of cataract surgeries including Active Lifestyle Lenses which give you the ability to do most all typical daily functions (driving, reading, computer work, golfing, hunting, crossword puzzles, hobbies, etc.) without the need for reading glasses or distance glasses. These lenses give you the ability to focus again as you typically could in your 20s and 30s.
Even patients with the early signs of cataract progression, i.e. dysfunctional lens syndrome, in their late 40s and early 50s, now have many options to reduce or eliminate the need for glasses for most activities. Come visit us at our Arboretum or Barton Creek Mann Eye Institute locations for a comprehensive eye exam, and a review of your visual needs and options for enhancing your vision for life.
For more information on Mann Eye, visit www.manneye.com.