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Helping Others See Clearly: Increased Choices for Cataract Treatment

Mary Beth TeSelle
Special to The Union

Cataracts affect nearly 25 million American adults according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It is estimated that nearly half of all Americans aged 75 or older will have cataracts.

“I always tell my patients that if we are lucky to live long enough, we will all develop cataracts and eventually need cataract surgery,” says Mitra Ayazifar, MD, ophthalmologist with Capital Eye Medical Group in Grass Valley. “Most patients have already developed mild to moderate cataracts by the time they reach their sixties and seventies.”

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. For people who have cataracts, it can feel like they are looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. This clouded vision can make it difficult to read, drive a car, or even see facial expressions.

“The eye’s naturally clear lens is responsible for focusing light on the back of the eye to produce a clear and sharp image,” explains Dr. Ayazifar, known as Dr. Mitra to her patients. “As we age, changes in the body’s natural lens cause it to become more cloudy. As the cataract matures, it causes changes in our vision that may be corrected by updating our eyeglass or contact lens prescription. But that only works to a certain point.”

Dr. Ayazifar says cataracts have very distinct symptoms – often first noticeable when driving at night.

“The most common symptoms include cloudy or blurred vison with increased difficulty while driving at night,” Dr. Ayazifar explains. “This may be accompanied by the need for brighter light while reading or for work such as sewing or knitting.”

Another common symptom is seeing “halos” around lights. At this stage, Dr. Ayazifar says patients will often have frequent changes in their eyeglass or contact lens prescription without the vision being “sharp enough.”

Cataracts typically develop slowly and don’t dramatically affect your vision during the early stages. But left untreated, they could have a devastating effect on your vision.

“When left untreated over a long period of time, cataracts can lead to blindness,” cautions Dr. Ayazifar. “In the modern world, this rarely occurs except in case of rapidly growing traumatic cataracts.”

The main treatment option for cataracts is surgical removal of the cloudy lens, which is then replaced with a permanent artificial intraocular lens.

“By replacing the cloudy lens, we are able to restore the focusing power of the eye,” Dr. Ayazifar explains. “This is a quick procedure that is done as an outpatient under intravenous sedation.”

There are three commonly used replacement intraocular lens:

Multifocal, which reduces dependence on eyeglasses and provides a range of functional vision from far to mid-range to near.

Monofocal, or standard lens implants which do not correct astigmatism and are best suited for patients who do not mind wearing glasses most of the time.

Toric, a type of lens that corrects astigmatism but will still require patients to wear glasses for mid-range or near range vision.

Cataract surgery has seen significant advances in recent years, including the development of laser assisted cataract surgery. This combines computer-controlled laser technology with 3-D imaging, giving the doctor more precision during the cataract removal. Unfortunately, this treatment is not covered by insurance, so it is an additional out of pocket cost for patients.

Dr. Ayazifar also offers ORA system technology, which provides real-time measurements of the patient’s eye during surgery. This allows confirmation of the desired target, which can be helpful in patients who underwent certain eye surgeries in the past.

These added treatment options allow doctors like Dr. Ayazifar to customize treatment plans to each patient’s specific needs. In fact, since opening up her private ophthalmology practice, she has started a new service line for cataract surgery and other eyelid surgeries at Grass Valley Surgery Center. This has allowed a more convenient and local option for access to eye surgeries for the community.

“Every patient is unique with a special set of symptoms, hobbies, lifestyle goals and personality type,” she says. “All of these factors play a major role in my discussion of lens implant options. We start with measurements of the cornea and the eye itself. This, combined with the eye exam, allows me to eliminate or narrow down some specialty lenses for which the patient may not be the best candidate.”

Dr. Ayazifar says any patient diagnosed with cataracts should work in partnership with their doctor to determine the best plan of action for their needs.

She says helping patients regain their vision fuels her passion for her career.

“I encourage the patients’ involvement in this process as they will be living with their lens choice and I want them to be happy with the outcome and able to maintain their lifestyle habits,” she says. “Cataract surgeries are one of the most gratifying procedures that I am able to perform for my patients.”


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