Ways to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

Roy Johnson woke up from a nap one evening and panicked when he realized he suddenly couldn’t see anything.

“It was like a cloud was over my face. I had to feel my way to my neighbors’ house to get help,” the 64-year-old man from Englewood said.  “It was scary, because I thought I had glaucoma…something that can blind you for life.”

But it turned out that he had advanced cataracts in both of his eyes, which occurs when the lens in your eye becomes cloudy and affects your ability to see.

Roy Johnson

These days, though, Johnson says, “I now have 20/20 vision.”

Johnson had surgery on both of his eyes to remove the cataracts last year at Cook County Health & Hospitals System’s Provident Hospital, shortly after he first came for treatment.

Dr. Ramez Haddadin, an ophthalmologist at CCHHS, performed laser-assisted cataract surgery on both of Johnson’s eyes at different times.  In this state-of-the-art surgery, Dr. Haddadin used a highly specialized laser to remove Johnson’s blurred lens from each eye and replaced both lenses with artificial ones to restore clear vision.  Laser-assisted surgery gives ophthalmologists more accuracy for removing cataracts, which is especially important for advanced cataracts like Johnson’s, Dr. Haddadin explained.

“This procedure completely saved Roy’s vision,” he said.

Johnson said having his vision back means to the world to him.  He is now able to go back to working as a painter.  And he can walk safely, no longer concerned about tripping over things he can’t see clearly, now that his vision is much better.

“To be able to see again, it’s like being born again,” he said.

During Healthy Vision Month in May, CCHHS encourages people to make their eye health a priority and take steps to protect their vision.

“That includes getting regular checkups, maintaining a healthy diet and wearing sunglasses when you’re outdoors on a sunny day to protect against ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can hasten the formation of cataracts,” Dr. Haddadin said.  “It’s recommended that adults have a comprehensive eye exam.  Based on that initial exam and your individual risk factors, the eye care provider will recommend what the follow-up interval should be.”

For instance, if you have a family history of eye disease or have diabetes, it may be recommended that you get your eyes checked more regularly, because both are known to increase your chance of developing eye problems.

Dr. Haddadin said many eye problems also become more common with age.

“Cataracts are very common in older adults.  By the age of 80, more than half of Americans will either have cataracts or have cataract surgery,” Dr. Haddadin noted.  “So it’s important to have your eyes looked at by an ophthalmologist, not just for cataracts but for a host of other potential problems with your eyes that can only be detected early with a comprehensive eye exam.

“We have a better chance of saving your vision if problems are caught early,” he said.

CCHHS is offering free vision exams along with other screenings at the 4 Men Only Health & Wellness Fair on Saturday, June 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will be held at New Life Community Church, 2657 South Lawndale Avenue in Chicago.  For more information, call 312-286-3405 or 312-489-1548.

You can also call to schedule an appointment with a CCHHS primary care doctor to discuss your individual risk factors for vision problems by calling the Patient Support Center at 312-864-0200.