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Queens Chronicle

What Seniors Need To Know About The Risk Of Cataracts

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Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2003 12:00 am

Almost 13 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts.

Cataracts are the clouding of the eye’s lens, like a window that is fogged with steam. They are not a growth or a film. When the lens becomes cloudy, light rays cannot pass through the lens easily, and vision becomes blurry.

Cataracts generally start out small and have little effect on vision at first. But as the cataract matures, it clouds more of the lens. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that you see your ophthalmologist if you experience:

Painless blurring of vision

Sensitivity to light and glare

Poor night vision

Fading or yellowing of colors

Frequent changes in glasses or contact lens prescriptions

Although cataracts usually develop as part of the aging process, they can also result from: eye injuries; certain diseases, such as diabetes; medications, such as steroids; genetic inheritance; or frequent, unprotected exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays.

If cataracts don’t interfere with your life, you and your eye care provider may decide not to do anything about them. When cataracts do interfere with daily activities, however, following a careful examination and assessment by your eye care provider, they can be treated surgically. Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States with most patients regaining bright, youthful vision.

In the past, cataract surgery was often a source of anxiety for patients. The procedure usually required extensive pre-operative testing, deep anesthesia and involved techniques that required multiple stitches and limited post-operative activities. Today, experienced ophthalmologists have technological and medical advances available to them that permit no stitch, no needle procedures, which results in a dramatically shortened recovery time with better overall results.

Consequently, the goal in cataract surgery has become not only to improve the quality and quantity of the patient’s vision, but also to decrease the patient’s dependence on glasses. Through precise preoperative measurements of the eye’s astigmatism and size, a customized implant is chosen and surgical plan formulated to achieve these goals.

Expertise and experience are the two most important factors in determining the best doctor for your eye care. Dr. Koster offers tremendous attention to detail and expertise to all of his surgical patients. He has performed over 5,000 cataract procedures, and over 850 in the past year alone.

While many technological improvements have been made in cataract surgery, few doctors avail themselves to them fully. Furthermore, hospitals are not always able to offer these costly technologies. Dr. Koster is a partner in a wholly-physician owned, fully accredited, ambulatory surgical center that specializes in cataracts. At his center, the staff and administrators are solely dedicated to eye care.

In this setting, a number of conveniences are available. For example, extensive pre-testing is not usually required, and the patient’s wait times for a procedure are relatively short. Furthermore, because of the state-of-the-art technologies, dedicated staff, and Dr. Koster’s expertise, most surgeries take between 5 to 8 minutes, dramatically reducing trauma to the eye and shortening recovery time. Usually the incision is so small that a suture is not required to close it. Afterward, antibiotic drops are placed on the eye, and it is lightly covered overnight.

Patients come in the next day to be examined and instructed on the use of the eye drops they will need following surgery. Most patients can return to all of their daily activities, including driving, following this first post-op exam.

Patients should not be afraid of cataract surgery. Instead, with today’s technological advances and the right ophthalmologist, patients should look forward to the improved vision that cataract surgery can provide to them.

Regardless of your age or whether or not you experience any of the symptoms described above, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends routine eye checkups with your ophthalmologist to ensure healthy eyes.

(Editor’s note: Dr. Harry Koster is medical director of NY Laser Group—which offers patients a full spectrum of eye care services—from contact lens and eyeglass prescriptions to medications and laser surgery. He has offices located at 101-05 Lefferts Boulevard in Richmond Hill. Telephone: 718-805-0700 and 10 Downing Street in Manhattan. Telephone: 212-243-2300). He is a Harvard trained, board certified Ophthalmologist specializing in Cataract and Laser Vision Correction. Besides private practice, he is the Surgical Director of Cataract and Refractive Surgery at SUNY College of Optometry in Midtown New York.)

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