March is Women’s History Month – and here at Envision Eye & Laser, we’re highlighting a woman who has made a difference in the quest to keep our eyes healthy and our vision clear. One of the most significant advances made in the field of ophthalmology is in cataract surgery. Everyone, if they live long enough will develop cataracts. Cataracts occur when the lens which is in the middle of the eye, becomes clouded. This can lead to blurred vision, sensitivity to light (especially at night), glare, and trouble reading. Patients often come to the office complaining of “glasses not working anymore”, even in a recent prescription. In some severe cases – and if left untreated – cataracts can lead to blindness (vision worse than 20/200 even with glasses).
Certain risk factors for cataracts include:
- Smoking and alcohol abuse
- Environmental factors (such as prolonged exposure to sunlight)
- Family History
- Prolonged use of steroids
- High Blood Pressure
One of the biggest contributors to the field of ophthalmology is Patricia Bath, MD. She was appointed Chairperson of the Ophthalmology Department at King/Drew- UCLA in 1983. In addition to being the first woman chair of an ophthalmology residency program in the United States, Dr. Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe, a procedure designed to help treat cataracts. When she patented the device in 1988, she became the first female African-American doctor to attain a medical patent.
Dr. Bath’s Laserphaco Probe helped pave the way for today’s small incision cataract surgery. Her invention revolutionized the surgery because patients no longer have to remain in the hospital for several days. Cataract surgery involves the removal of the cloudy lens, which is then replaced with a clear synthetic lens. Cataract surgery is crucial for preventing vision problems and blindness, as it allows patients to continue living normal, independent and healthy lives.
Today, Dr. Bath is an advocate for telemedicine, a new field that uses medical technology to bring services to people in remote areas. The passion that Dr. Bath has for community ophthalmology and a desire to preserve vision, resulted in her co-founding the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in 1976. She is also an honorary member of UCLA Medical Center’s staff.