Dr. Marguerite McDonald is a pioneer in the field of LASIK eye surgery and Professor of Ophthalmology at Tulane University in New Orleans. She helped build the first excimer laser for vision correction and performed the world’s first refractive eye surgery using lasers. She moved to New York after hurricane Katrina.
Dr. McDonald referred listeners to the EyeSmart campaign at www.GetEyeSmart.com for a wealth of information about vision care, especially for those over 40. Chronic dry eye, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic vision problems and macular degeneration are very real, can be dangerous and are all treatable.
Sharon noted that visual development is critical to learning and relationships and that eye care education for parents can be critical. According to Dr. McDonald, some hospitals now have all newborns checked by an ophthalmologist. Retinal blastoma is a fairly common eye cancer in newborns and can be life threatening. She recommends a visit to a pediatric ophthalmologist at six weeks to check on eye development. One infant in 250 is born with cataracts.
LASIK surgery is by far the most popular elective surgery in the history of medicine. Although it can be expensive, benefits are high and risk is low. With LASIK, they cut a flap in the corneal membrane with an oscillating blade, reshape the cornea with an excimer laser and close the flap. They now cut the flap with a second laser, which his much easier and safer. The results are so good that NASA is now accepting astronauts who have had all-laser LASIK.
There was some discussion about children wearing glasses. Kids these days spend most of their time indoors staring at a high-intensity screen. That is very bad for visual development and can induce myopia. The youngest LASIK patient is 18 or 20, after their vision is stabilized. However, Dr. McDonald once operated on a 15 year old who wanted to be a Navy SEAL.
Sharon then asked about dry eye. Dr. McDonald replied that everyone get situational dry eye. We normally blink about 20 times per minute but when we’re intensely occupied with something, the rate can drop to three times per minute. Dry eye symptoms are the number one reason for visits to the eye doctor. Contact lenses wearers are especially vulnerable. And keeping your eyes healthy improves your candidacy for LASIK surgery.
Longtime contact lens wearers are good LASIK candidates but excessive contact lens use can reshape your cornea. With Wave Front surgery, this can now be corrected. The doctor noted that contact lenses tend to be badly abused. People wear them too long, don’t take them out at night, don’t clean them well enough. This can cause severe dry eye and corneal ulcers.
There was considerable discussion about the tear film, which Dr, McDonald described as “the interface between the eye and the environment.” It is also the eye’s most important refractive surface and it protects they eye from infections. Moisture is extremely important to vision and dry eye is the most common reason for eye doctor visits. Lack of moisture can cause physical discomfort, depression, poor learning skills, lowered productivity and poor appearance.
Dry eye is easily treatable.