Jessica Dalheim was tired of seeing rainbows.
“You see rainbows at night when driving and it becomes a little scary,” she said.
Rainbows? At night? There’s a reasonable explanation.
Jessica developed cataracts at an early age. The National Eye Institute says half of all Americans age 80 and older have or have had cataracts, but getting them early in life - before the age of 40 - is rare. Jessica was in her 20s when an optometrist first told her she had early onset cataracts.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts occur due to the breakdown of proteins in the lens of the eye, causing the lens to become opacified (cloudy). As light passes through the opacified lens it cannot focus clearly on the retina at the back of the eye, causing objects to look hazy or blurred. In addition, cataracts may cause rainbow-like vision at night as Jessica experienced, in addition to several other vision problems.
In spite of the diagnosis, Jessica did not experience any problems with her eyesight until nearly 30 years later.
“My vision started declining in 2020,” she said. “The optometrist said the cataract in my left eye was now covering part of the pupil, which is why I was having problems.”
The optometrist gave Jessica her first prescription for glasses. But by the time the glasses were ready, they were useless because the cataract had grown larger.
Surgery was the next and only step available to correct Jessica’s sight.
Finding an ophthalmologist at the time was not easy. The doctor to whom Jessica’s optometrist referred her was scheduling surgeries for five months later. With little choice, Jessica scheduled her surgery.
New care option allows Jessica to focus on the future
Jessica learned her employer, Blessing Health, was developing a vision center at the Blessing Health Center 4800 Maine in Quincy, and Senem Salar-Gomceli, MD, ophthalmologist – known to her patients as Dr. Salar – was joining the Vision Center as a founding provider. Under Dr. Salar’s guidance state of the art equipment with the latest technology was purchased for the Center, ophthalmic technicians were hired and trained with Dr. Salar, and new updates were installed at the Blessing Surgery Center for the surgical ophthalmology care of Blessing patients.
Certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and fellowship trained in pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus (crossed eyes) at the University of Illinois Chicago, among Dr. Salar’s special interests was cataract care. She underwent years of training in different settings, including internationally. Additionally, Dr. Salar had diagnosed and treated countless rare eye conditions in her career as a result of being trained in one of the busiest hospitals in the United States in the Bronx, New York.
Jessica became a patient of Dr. Salar and rescheduled her surgery.
“She is very thoughtful and thorough,” Jessica said. “I felt very comfortable with Dr. Salar, she made me feel at ease, addressed my concerns promptly, and explained every little detail about my condition and of the surgery.”
During cataract surgery, the opacified lens is replaced with an artificial lens. Jessica had cataracts in both eyes. Since she was having no problems with her vision in the right eye at the time, Dr. Salar recommended surgery for the left eye only and carefully tracking the condition of the right eye. Jessica liked Dr. Salar’s diligent but conservative approach.
Jessica also had significant astigmatism in the left eye.
“This is an imperfection in the curvature of the eye, occurring when either the front surface of the eye, called the cornea, or the lens inside the eye has mismatched curves,” Dr. Salar explained. “Along with other methods of correcting astigmatism such as glasses and contact lenses, with the advent of Toric intraocular lens implant technology, astigmatism and cataracts can be corrected at the same time, during cataract surgery.”
Dr. Salar recommended the special lens implant for Jessica’s left eye.
“I was getting to the point where I could not read a sign down a hallway,” Jessica said of her distance vision. “I would have to walk up to the sign in order to read it. That’s a pain. The Toric lens has made my day-to-day life normal again.”
Today, there are no more rainbows in Jessica Dalheim’s life - at least at night when she is driving.
For more information on Dr. Salar and the Blessing Vision Center, go to blessinghealth.org/visioncenter, or call (217) 214-0454.