See Clearly: Benefits of Cataract Surgery
What if you were a basketball coach who couldn’t see the basket? Sounds absurd, but that is exactly what happened to University of Utah women’s basketball coach Anthony Levrets. At the age of just 35 he found himself with the vision of a 70-year old in his right eye – due to a cataract. “It affected my depth perception: for three years, I quit shooting the basketball—I quit demonstrating to my players,” Levrets said. It wasn’t just his job that was affected either, “I was afraid to drive with my kids in the car. I love to fly fish—I couldn’t see to tie a fly.”
Blurry vision like that suffered by Levrets is just one of the symptoms of cataracts. Dim vision, even in bright light conditions, seeing halos around bright light, and extreme sensitivity to light and glare are other signs you may be dealing with cataracts.
A cataract is clouding of the lens of the eye. Often, cataracts develop gradually, and individuals don’t realize their vision is affected until it they have difficulty driving or reading. Cataracts typically occur in people 65 and older, however, in Levrets case there was a mitigating factor. When he sought help, the doctor said “You are either 70 or have been doing steroids.” Levrets cataract was a side effect of receiving steroid injections to relieve back pain from an injury three years prior.
If left untreated, Levrets would certainly go blind in his right eye. Untreated cataracts are the most common causes of blindness in the world. It doesn’t have to be though -- cataracts are easily curable, and the surgery can sometimes leave you with better vision than you had before the cataracts developed.
Levrets put off getting the surgery after his initial cataract diagnosis. “I was told to see how long I could live with it,” said Levrets. But failing his driver’s test was the impetus to seek the expertise of Dr. Balamurali K. Ambati, the official ophthalmologist for the University of Utah Athletics Department. His cataract was quite severe,” said Ambati. “He was essentially completely dependent on his left eye.”
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning the patient can go home the same day. The cloudy lens is removed through a small incision, and an artificial lens is inserted in its place. In Levrets’ case Ambati performed an advanced technology cataract surgery, giving Levrets a corrective new multifocal lens. The lens splits light, giving half the light for distance vision and half for near. The procedure is available for patients with cataracts of any age and for people over 40 who do not have cataracts but who are interested in being independent of bi- and trifocals, if the rest of their eye is healthy. “We can explore options,” said Ambati.
Most cataract patients see improved vision within the first few days after surgery. Levrets saw improvement almost instantly though. “Holy cow! I got up and could already see,” he said, “It’s awesome!” Today his vision is 20/15, perfect for shooting hoops. “The result is remarkable,” said Levrets. “I’m a different person.”