The following is an excerpt from the September 11, 2014 edition of The Star-Ledger: “Clarity close at hand for cataract patients” by Susan Bloom.

Though the prospect of eye surgery made him apprehensive, Manuel Cruz, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, knew something needed to be done last fall to address his faltering vision.

“I remember being in the car on my way to a meeting and the lights and glare bothered me, when I said mass, the lights in the church began bothering me also,” the 60-year old Newark resident shared.

“It was a gradual thing and I wasn’t able to pinpoint exactly what was going on,” he admitted, until a physician friend of his delivered the likely prognosis. “He told me, ‘It sounds like you’re getting cataracts.”

Dr Matthew J Marano, Section Chief of Ophthalmology at St Barnabas Medical Center and the Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston and Director of Marano Eye Care in Livingston and Newark, comments on this common condition:

A function of the aging process,there’s almost no dodging this bullet.Nearly everyone will develop cataracts if they live long enough. Cataracts are the result of a denaturing of the protein in the eye’s lens over time due to exposure to UV light, conditions such as diabetes and glaucoma, medications like steroids administered to treat autoimmune disorders, hobbies or occupation, or simply a genetic predisposition.

Beginning in one’s 20s, the lens of the eye starts hardening and becoming less stable. Over the next 20 years or more, patients suffering from cataracts may experience a slight decrease in vision, especially at night, a glare or halo around streetlights, the need for more light when reading, or may complain of headaches, a decreased ability to focus or distinguish colors, or a sensation similar in appearance to ‘frosting on a window.’

The profile of the average cataract patient has changed over time. Years ago, patients used to have to wait for the cataract to be ‘ripe’ to have it removed, which was typically around 75-80, but over the past decade we’ve been seeing younger and younger patients, the result of a combined increase in visual demands at the hands of technology and a growing awareness of the degradation in the quality of their vision by active professionals, who are less apt to accept it. The volume of cataract surgeries in America has subsequently tripled in the past 15 years, from roughly 1 million performed in 2000 to over 3.5 million performed annually today, with even greater growth expected by 2020. The use of cutting-edge femtosecond laser technology has enabled smaller incisions, greater stability and precise placement of the intraocular lens, and better and more predictable patient outcomes with less irritation to the eye. Done as a two-stage out patient procedure using a sedative, the process is painless and quick–less than 10 minutes. Patients can see well right in the recovery room as they wake up.

“As soon as I woke up, I could see the clock on the wall and I couldn’t wait to get my second eye done the following week,” said a grateful Cruz, whose successful cataract surgeries last December eliminated the need for bifocals he’d relied on for distance and reading for the past decade. “Now I have very good eyesight– I see, read, watch TV, and drive without a problem and I’m not affected by cataracts anymore. Vision issues can be frightening, but I hope I can help take fear out of the conversation,” Cruz said. “The intersection of today’s technology with compassion and experience make this procedure such a blessing.”

Below: Dr. Marano examines Bishop Cruz’s eyes following surgery.

marano-cruz