Technological advances in eye surgery over the last 10 years, allow eye surgeons to more predictively, accurately and effectively restore and repair vision. Our eyes are a complicated and delicate part of the human vision system. We use them to stargaze in the desert, take in sunsets on the beach, behold mountain vistas and to enjoy the seasons. We look into the faces of the ones we love, and we manage our lifestyles with them. Our ability to read directs and inspires us. But we probably put very little thought into how our eyes work on a daily basis. Why would we? They normally perform as intended and we usually take eye health for granted. An estimated 2.5 billion people with poor vision don’t get it corrected. Aging affects our vision quality, and injury or eye disease threatens blindness. So, if you are suffering a loss of vision or experiencing poor vision quality, it’s time for you to know how the latest technology in eye surgery can help you get your quality of life back.
It is estimated that more than 3.7 million Americans will have cataract surgery in 2019. That equates to more than seven million eyes. The good news is cataract surgery is one of the safest and fastest surgical procedures you may ever have.
What is a cataract?
Simply put, a cataract is a clouded lens in the eye. This is one of those disease processes that will affect nearly everyone if they live long enough. Cataracts are not dangerous, they are very slow to progress and they are painless. But cataracts can rob you of your hobbies and daily life enjoyment if not addressed and removed. They can cause you to lose your ability to drive or to live independently.
Typical symptoms of a cataract are a gradual progression of vision from sharp to hazy, reduction in color clarity recognition and brightness, glare when driving at night, and difficulty reading in low light.
Fortunately, cataract surgery has come a long way according to Dr. Beau Swann, a Waco-based Board Eligible Ophthalmologist. So, now, not only can you relax about losing your vision from cataracts, you can choose to customize your eye surgery and may actually get an improved vision quality that allows you to not be as dependent on glasses. New technology in customized cataract surgery lets your surgeon improve your vision acuity to higher level than before cataract surgery if you had astigmatism or other refractive visual acuity problems. Many patients are now enjoying life without glasses for the first time in their lives!
“I perform what’s called laser-assisted cataract surgery, which aims to achieve LASIK-like results for cataract patients after surgery,” Swann said. “We use advanced technology lenses, along with the laser, which have the potential to correct a patient’s near, medium, and distance vision. We call this ‘refractive surgery’ and the outcomes are often spectacular for the patient”.
“With traditional, manual surgical techniques and monofocal intraocular lens implants, which only provide a single focus of vision correction, a patient will likely need to wear glasses for many tasks after surgery. But after customized refractive surgery, there is a good possibility that a patient can be mostly independent of corrective lenses. I elected to complete an additional year of fellowship training in refractive surgery because the technological advances in ophthalmic surgery gives patients so many more options for improving quality of life through vision correction”. Dr. Swann also added, “ I operate at Fishpond Surgery Center, and I own the most technologically advanced surgical equipment in Waco. I perform 3D eye surgery and have the ORA system which allows me to provide live time lens measurements for greater accuracy of lens selection”.
Glaucoma is an umbrella term for several eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. In Americans 80% of the glaucoma cases is caused by increased pressure inside the eye. It can affect people from young to old but becomes more common with age. Certain demographic populations are also at increased risk for developing glaucoma in their lifetime. Glaucoma is a serious disease and is one of the leading causes of severe vision loss and blindness in people over age 60. It is asymptomatic which means the severe vision damage can occur before a patient experiences signs or symptoms.
If you catch glaucoma early, vision loss can be prevented or slowed with the right treatment. The primary problem with traditional glaucoma treatments is they relied on a series of eye drops that can be inconvenient and for some patients can be intolerable.
There are two types of glaucoma – open angle and closed angle. Symptoms of open angle glaucoma include patchy blind spots in your peripheral or central vision, and sometimes tunnel vision. In acute angle-closure glaucoma, patients may experience severe headaches, eye pain, blurred vision, and seeing halos.
Technological advances with the use of Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS), however, allow many patients reduction in the use of or complete freedom from taking daily eye drops. MIGS reduces the probability of needing more invasive glaucoma surgery. Even better, some procedures can be done at the same time as cataract surgery so patients with both issues don’t have to go through multiple procedures.
There is also laser technology that allows the eye surgeon to do procedures that can be repeated as necessary to reduce the eye’s pressure and prevent disease advancement. One of the most common (and painless) glaucoma surgical treatments is the Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT). This is a very quick laser procedure that only requires numbing drops for the patient.
Dr. Swann said “After an SLT procedure, the patient has very little, if any, discomfort and can go about their day like nothing happened”. “The beauty of the SLT is that it can be repeated once should the pressure elevate again in the eye, and the patient is not dependent on a complicated drop regimen to keep their glaucoma in check.”
If a patient’s cornea has been damaged by eye disease or injury, a cornea transplant may be necessary. This is when tissue from an organ eye donor is transplanted into your eye to replace your damaged cornea.
While it may seem intimidating to hear you need a cornea transplant, technology has made the surgery less disruptive than in years past. Dr. Swann believes your vision is your, “most important sense”. He said, “it deserves the most technologically advanced and up to date knowledge and that an ophthalmologist can provide. People’s vision is extremely important to me,” he said. “That’s why I’ve made the conscious decision to learn and utilize the latest technology for my patients. My primary focus is to determine which procedure is the safest and least invasive in order to fix the problem. Thankfully, technology has come such a long way that it makes my job easy compared to what my father and his contemporaries had to work with.”