Along with a thickening waistline, most of us will get cataracts in our later years. . The good news is that advances in cataract surgery and new and improved lenses can clear your vision faster than losing 10 pounds.
A slow moving disease that dulls your vision, cataracts cloud the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil, says ophthalmologist Tamela Martin of Palm Desert. Along with degrees in medicine and a successful practice, Dr. Martin’s other claim to fame is the title of “California’s Pork Queen” earned as a youth raised on a farm in Orange County. More about that later.
Will you have cataracts?
The disease affects millions of people over age 50. As the U.S. population ages, more than 30 million people are expected to have cataracts by the year 2020.
Here are some telltale signs to watch for:
• Distance vision a bit blurred
• Difficulty reading
• Poor night driving because of glare or halos around oncoming headlights
• Colors dull or muted.
• Changing glasses no longer works.
While it may take years for the cataract to grow into a serious problem, in less than a half hour a skilled surgeon can replace a foggy lens with new acrylic intraocular lens, somewhat like inserting a tiny permanent contact lens into your eye. No stitches are required in 98 percent of the cases, Martin said, as the incision is small and the eye heals quickly. Vision improves immediately.
The main complaint, Martin said, “People tell me they can now see their wrinkles and they notice how dirty the house is.”
The good news in the world of cataracts is the wide range of lenses available to correct a variety of vision problems, Martin said. There are multi-focal lens implants to allow both close-up and distant vision. Standard lenses only correct vision at one focal point, either near or far. Patients who choose far vision will still need reading glasses.
A new standard “Toric” lens implant will allow for vision correction along with regular astigmatism, Martin said, which a distorted or slanted image, caused when the cornea is shaped like a football or oval instead of a normal round shape.
A “Symfony” lens will, for the first time, help people with mild macular degeneration, astigmatism and mild glaucoma by “creating an extended depth of vision,” she said. Martin is the only eye surgeon in the Valley currently authorized to use the Symfony lens, but others are expected to be approved after the first of the year.
Eisenhower Eye Surgery Center
Martin, the medical director of the outpatient eye surgery center at Eisenhower Medical Center, coordinated and established the surgical eye care center at Eisenhower in 2013. It had been closed for 10 years prior to her arrival. She oversaw the training of technicians and nurses and ordered state-of-the-art equipment and instruments.
One new device, called “Zeiss Lumera” surgical scope, magnifies the eye 10 to 20 times, which allows the surgeon to accurately see fine details while doing the cataract procedure.
. Martin does 11 of cataract procedures every Monday and another six on Thursday at Eisenhower, and has been an eye surgeon for nearly 20 years. She holds medical degrees from UC San Francisco and Stanford University and Medical Center, where she specialized in ophthalmology.
Who is Dr. Martin?
She grew up on a small farm in North Tustin, Orange County. “My mother wanted me to be the farmer’s daughter,” she said. They raised 50 pigs, 20 sheep and another 20 cows. At a young age, her mother taught her how to castrate pigs, “something my father could not bear to do.” Her father, a true rocket scientist, works as a nuclear engineer. Despite winning scores of blue ribbons in 4-H and being crowned California’s Pork Queen, Martin followed her father’s career path into the world of science and medicine.