August marks Cataract Awareness & Children’s Eye Health & Safety Month. As an eye surgeon, Raul A. Peña, M.D. is experienced in taking care of eyesight.
His procedures allow people to participate in activities that poor vision has long kept them from enjoying. In addition to offering advanced LASIK eye surgery to reduce or eliminate dependence on glasses and contacts, Peña also performs cataract surgery.
By removing the original natural lens in a patient’s eye that becomes clouded, Peña is able to replace them with intraocular lens implants (IOL).
“The thing about cataracts is everyone develops them. The lens inside of the eye starts to get cloudy, and this is gradual over time. That doesn’t mean you need to be rushed into the operating room right away, but it is important to monitor your vision to ensure you keep the same quality of life.”When do cataracts become an issue to address? Peña said the patient would begin to realize that life looks out of focus.
“At night when the lights have a little more glare, needing to look closely at text to read, when you hit a golf ball, and you can’t find it in the grass,” Dr. Peña said. “That’s when cataracts become a ‘visually significant cataract’ that is when it begins to interrupt a patient’s everyday activity. It doesn’t mean they can’t drive or have to stop doing what they usually do — you are acknowledging that they can’t see as well as before. ”
“Cataracts are so insidious, slow moving, that patients typically come in saying they have one good eye, and once we remove the cataract from one, they noticed that it was bad in both eyes, just more severe in one eye,” Peña said. “They can be hard to detect too because there is no pain, there is no irritation, you just can’t see the same.”
Some conditions like diabetes, steroid use for pain and inflammation, or family history could speed up the onset of cataracts, but they are unavoidable over a long life. He repeated not to worry because of the frequency of cataracts and his assurance that the surgery is routine, safe, and can get your life back on track quickly.
“I’ve done cataract surgery on my father and tens of thousands of people, so I think I got the hang of it,” Dr. Peña said with a smile. “I do the latest, no injections, no sutures, no patches. You come in in the morning and leave the same morning, it doesn’t hurt. You come back a week later, and we take care of your other eye.”
Children’s Eye Health & Safety MonthDr. Peña had a message for parents about prioritizing and monitoring children’s vision in the early years. Corrective glasses and catching problems can go a long way toward long-term eye health in children.
“It is very important that your children get checked by an eye doctor, an optometrist or ophthalmologist, someone needs to check their eyes because if you have kids from 3-7 years old and they need glasses but don’t have them it can be an issue.”
He explained the science and consequences of ignoring proper eye care during critical development years for a child.
“The visual pathway from the eye to the visual cortex in your brain needs to fully develop 100 percent by the age of nine because otherwise, with or without glasses, they won’t see 20/20 because their visual pathway didn’t fully develop,” Dr. Peña said. “This can cause refractive amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye.”
“You notice kids when you think they are a little bit clumsy or they need to sit in the front of the class at school,” he said. “It’s not because they are not smart or too clumsy they might just not see well. So it’s important for parents to know this information.”
So as Cataract Awareness & Children’s Eye Health & Safety month come and go remember to take a break from that screen, pay attention to the warning signs and take care of your own eyes as well as growing kids and aging relatives to ensure great vision for life!