Sunday, April 3, 2011

Emma's Cataracts

Last Friday, a recent acquaintance inquired, “You drive all the way to Denver to see Emma’s vet?” I replied, “Yes, but its Emma’s ophthalmologist. I take her to see a specialist for her cataracts.”

I discovered Emma’s first cataract (a clouding of the clear lens of the eye) one evening while fixing dinner. I looked down at Emma in the evening light and saw a cloudy look in her left eye. As soon as I saw it I suspected a cataract. So, I made an appointment with our local veterinarian and she concurred. She referred Emma to the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado (VRCC) to see an ophthalmology specialist. At our first appointment the veterinarian said to me, “I’ll bet you didn’t even know someone like me existed.” I said, “Yes, you’re right.” The world of specialization is apparent at VRCC with veterinarians specializing in oncology, orthopedics, neurology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, dermatology/allergy, dentistry, and cardiology.

The veterinarian diagnosed Emma with inherited cataracts. Over time, the cataract in her left eye now impairs 90% of her sight, meaning she can see an object as a shadow but she doesn’t know what it is. Dr. Nuhsbaum likened it to looking through wax paper. The cataract in her right eye now impairs 30% of her sight. In time, it too, will fully cloud over.

Dr. Nuhsbaum has recommended we wait until the right eye is also fully impaired and then operate on both eyes at the same time. She said it’s easier on Emma to be put her under anesthesia just once; and the surgery, while 90% successful, does have inherent risk and it you operate on her right eye while it still has some remaining sight and something goes wrong, you’ve given up the sight she had.

Until then, I will treat Emma’s left eye, which is almost fully impaired, with drops of anti-inflammatory medications to keep it healthy and inflammation free; and we will return in six to eight months to follow the progression in her right eye.

Although cataract surgery is expensive, I can’t imagine Emma living out the rest of her life without her sight. If she were happy on the couch that would be one thing, but without her sight, she couldn’t chase Griz, find the tennis ball I threw, or go through weave poles. Emma’s world would shrink and I think her spirit would, too.

For more information on VRCC, please visit:

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