SANJAY KAMAT, D.O. (NJ 25MB08531100), FIRMLY BELIEVES that every individual should add an eye exam to his or her list of annual medical mai ntenance.
Com ing from an ophthalmologist, meaning someone who has devoted his career to maintaining the health of the eye, this should c ome as no surprise. To be clear, though, his insistence is about much more than just drumming up business. A regular eye exam, he says, could wind up saving an individual from a future of compromised vision or, at worst, of life in complete darkness.
At their most basic , regular eye exams can ensure that patients maintain 20/20 vision as the eyes age—or as close to 20/20 as possible, at least—thanks to e ither corrective lenses or minimally invasive surgical interventions. More so, annual checkups can also help to recognize the early stage s of diseases such as glaucoma, which can cause vision loss, pain and even permanent blindness.
“Glaucoma is a tough one, and it’s some thing that can affect everyone,” says Dr. Kamat, owner of Briggs Eye Specialists in Mount Laurel, as well as Bucks Eye Specialists in Ya rdley, Pa. “Often, people don’t even know they have it until it’s too late.”
The Importance of Early Detection
Glaucoma is a complex, multi factorial disease that results from high intraocular pressure (IOP) causing damage to the optic nerve, the eye’s route for transmitting images to the brain. Elevated IOP is typically present in glaucoma patients, according to Dr. Kamat, though patients within the normal I OP range—12 mm Hg to 22 mm Hg—can develop th e disease, too.
Broadly speaking, glaucoma can be divided into two classes: narrow angle an d open angle. Narrow-angle glaucoma occurs suddenly, when the iris (the colored portion of the eye) is pushed or pulled forward, thereby resulting in a blockage of the eye’s drainage system. When the channels become blocked in this way, the IOP may spike and damage the opti c nerve. Open-angle glaucoma occurs more slowly.
“The hallmark of open-angle glaucoma is the loss of peripheral vision, resulting in what people call ‘tunnel vision,’” says Dr. Kamat. “Essentially, the peripheral vision starts to collapse. It’s an insidious disease, because most patients do not even realize what’s going on. It comes on very slowly, so you can have a large blind spot and not even know it’s there.”
He relays a cautionary tale from his weekly visits to area eye-care clinics, where he provides eye care to indigenous residents of lower-income areas of Camden and North Philadelphia. Many of these individuals he treats have never before had an eye exam, and some present with severe cases of glaucoma that place them beyond help.
“They come in with what they thought was blurry vision but in reality is optic-nerve damage,” he says. “They have intraocular pressure of 30 to 40. In some cases the damage is so bad, they’re going to go blind.”
With early detection and treatment, however, patients with glaucoma can protect their eyes against serious vision loss. If caught soon enough, Dr. Kamat can utilize an array of interventions to help patients manage this chronic disease.
At Briggs Eye Specialists, Dr. Kamat offers several different methods for reducing IOP as a mode of treatment. One nonsurgical option includes the administration of prescription eye drops designed to decrease IOP, though the drops can sometimes cause side effects such as redness and dry eye.
As for surgical options, Dr. Kamat can perform several MIGS procedures—short for minimally invasive glaucoma surgery—using microscopic-sized equipment and tiny incisions. Some examples: implanting specialized shunts to augment the drainage of fluid from the eye; a canaloplasty—“sort of like an angioplasty for the eye,” as Dr. Kamat says—utilizing a microcatheter to enlarge the drainage canal; and transscleral cyclophotocoagulation, which uses a laser to reduce the eye’s fluid production, thus lowering the IOP.
In many cases, Dr. Kamat says these interventions may be combined with ancillary procedures to otherwise improve a patient’s vision, such as cataract surgery and/or implantable premium lenses, with a single trip to the OR.
“All in all, we’re seeing some beautiful results,” he adds. “We had a patient recently who had IOP of 22. We were able to reduce her pressure to 10. She also had cataracts, so we removed those and provided her with new implantable lenses. So now she sees 20/20, without drops.”
Individuals over the age of 50 are particularly vulnerable to glaucoma, but the Glaucoma Research Foundation estimates that childhood glaucoma occurs in approximately one in every 8,000 U.S. children. Still, the condition may affect individuals of any age; Dr. Kamat says the risk of developing the disease increases 10 percent with each decade of life.
That’s why Dr. Kamat has invested in specialized technology designed to detect and treat the disease. For example, his Yardley office boasts what is essentially a high-resolution CT scanner for the eye. The scanner offers 3-D imaging of the optic nerve to identify damage that may predict the patient’s likelihood of needing treatment for glaucoma. At the same time, Dr. Kamat advises patients on changing certain aspects of their lifestyle that may contribute to glaucoma and other conditions that may rob individuals of their vision—managing high cholesterol or the cessation of cigarette smoking, for example.
“Thirty years ago, the adage was that you didn’t need to be treated for glaucoma unless you had high IOP, optic-nerve damage or the loss of peripheral vision,” he says. “If you didn’t have all three, you got a pat on the back and were on your way. Now we know better. If you’re at risk of ocular hypertension or are labeled ‘glaucoma suspect,’ there are a lot of things that can be done to prevent it from becoming a life-altering issue.” Glaucoma is just one of the many conditions Dr. Kamat and his team—including Cindy Chhedi, O.D. (NJ 27OA00599600, Certification: 27OM00035500)—treat at the Mount Laurel office. Throughout his distinguished career, he has also treated refractive error; cataracts; dry eye; ptosis (drooping of the upper eyelid, which can compromise vision); blepharitis (chronic inflammation of the eyelids); and diabetic retinopathy (damage to retinal blood vessels caused by diabetes), among others.
So, whether a patient wants to have the health of their eyes examined as a way to protect their vision from disease or simply needs expertly fitted glasses or multifocal contact lenses, Dr. Kamat can help. The first step: picking up the phone to schedule that first eye exam.
Briggs Eye Specialists
2026 B. Briggs Road | Mount Laurel
Bucks Eye Specialists
301 Oxford Valley Road | Suite 801-A
Photography by Alison Dunlap
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 6 (August 2018).
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