She Can See Clearly Now New Technology Revolutionizes Cataract Surgery

HOLYOKE — When Dr. Kevin Hulseberg told Pauline Coulombe about implanting a bifocal lens in her eyes, she had one question: “You mean I don’t have to wear glasses anymore?”

Thanks to the ReZoom intraocular lens implant — the first of its kind performed at Holyoke Medical Center — her cataracts are gone, and so are her glasses. Hulseberg now performs many such implants at Pioneer Valley Eye Associates, offering greater visual freedom to cataract patients.

“When we arrive into our 40s, the lens of the eye, which continues to grow throughout our life, reaches a point where the muscle inside the eye can no longer change the lens shape, and limits our ability to read up close,” Hulseberg said — a condition called presbyopia. Very often, as people reach their 60s, the lens has grown to a point where it begins to limit the amount of light entering the eye, causing glare or blurred vision — hallmarks of cataracts.

“For the past several decades, we have had the ability after cataract surgery to place a monofocal intraocular lens into the eye, allowing people to choose seeing well in the distance or reading, but not both without the aid of glasses,” Hulseberg said. The multifocal lenses allow patients to see at either distance, and without glasses.

“I had bifocal contact lenses before my surgery, and my eyes couldn’t adjust to a mono lens,” said Coulombe, a Southampton resident. “Now I see fine.”

To Hulseberg, such stories are gratifying — and increasingly common as cataract treatments become more effective and less invasive all the time.

“Cataract surgery used to involve removing the entire lens complex,” he said. “But recently, we started using ultrasound waves, a process known as phacoemulsification,” he said. “The ultrasound waves vibrate the cataracts like tiny earthquakes and break them into tiny pieces, which are then aspirated or vacuumed from the eye.”

Pre-ultrasound surgeries also involved making a large incision in the eye and extracting the lens, then closing the incision with sutures. Today, Hulseberg said, special scalpels are used to create a tiny wound that heals on its own, so patients are able to avoid any shot, stitch, or patch.

“The eye heals at a much faster rate,” he said. “And it’s the most effective surgery in the country — 98{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} effective.”

The ReZoom lens poses some limitations, such as glare with night driving and the need for reading glasses under certain lighting conditions, he added. However, patients often adapt to these side effects over a period of weeks.

Despite the effectiveness of the procedure, not everyone with cataracts is an ideal candidate, Hulseberg said, explaining that the decision really depends on a person’s lifestyle.

“Some people are born with cataracts, but almost everyone eventually gets them. They don’t always become visually significant, however.” Even in more advanced cases, if someone leads a more sedentary life and won’t be too bothered by cataracts, he may not choose to undergo surgery.

“We don’t dictate to patients the timing of the surgery,” Hulseberg said, “but we should educate patients on all the options in case their vision becomes a significant hindrance to them.”

As for Coulombe? Aside from the night glares she’s thrilled with the results of her ReZoom experience.

“I would definitely have it done again,” she said. “The recovery was great, and Dr. Hulseberg and his staff are very caring people. What he’s doing is a real positive for Holyoke Medical Center.”

For more information on cataract procedures, contact Pioneer Valley Eye Associates at (413) 536-8670.

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