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Eye Care

Eye Care Services

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Our physicians have leading-edge expertise in a full range of treatments and services, click below to get details:

Eye Care List Items

Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 and older. It is a disease that destroys your sharp, central vision. You need central vision to see objects clearly and to do tasks such as reading and driving.

AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. It does not hurt, but it causes cells in the macula to die. There are two types: wet and dry. Wet AMD happens when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula. These new blood vessels often leak blood and fluid. Wet AMD damages the macula quickly. Blurred vision is a common early symptom. Dry AMD happens when the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down. Your gradually lose your central vision. A common early symptom is that straight lines appear crooked.

Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss. Treatment can slow vision loss. It does not restore vision. Read more about Macular Degeneration.

NIH: National Eye Institute  

Trust your eyesight to cataract specialists

Having cataracts is a common vision problem that also presents an opportunity. With aging the eye's lens may cloud and affect vision. By age 75, 70 percent of people will develop cataracts.

The good news is that the clouded lens can be replaced with a prescription lens to correct vision, possibly eliminating the need for eyeglasses completely.

Implanting intraocular lenses (IOLs) is a common eye surgery approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the 1980s. In fact, today cataract surgery is the most common surgery in the world.

While it is a common surgery with a low rate of complications, you want to make sure you choose the best surgeon for the best results. When selecting a cataract surgeon, patients look for a doctor with experience, a high patient satisfaction rating and a state-of-the-art surgical center.

UTMB Health cataract surgeon Dr. Kevin Merkley performs both routine and complex cataract surgeries for patients from the greater Houston/Galveston area. He is a cornea specialist who earns high patient satisfaction ratings.

Helping you choose the best IOL for you

By talking with cataract patients about their expectations and doing thorough evaluations with advanced equipment, the surgeons determine the best lens and prescription for each patient.

  • Monofocal lenses offer clear vision at one distance and will require the use of glasses or contact lenses to see clearly at all ranges.
  • Multifocal and accommodative lenses enable a person to rely less on glasses and/or contact lenses to see clearly at both near and far distances. UTMB Health surgeons use premium multifocal lenses including the ReSTOR® CyrstaLens® and TECNIS® brands.
  • Patients with astigmatism can be treated with the Toric IOL™
  • Patients with a history of uveitis or diabetic reinopathy may need special types of lenses.

Dr. Merkley works closely with his patients to determine the best lens option for the best outcome.

Why choose UTMB Health for your cataract surgery?

Dr. Merkley said, "What separates us from the competition is we use the latest technology and strive to provide excellent outcomes. Our doctors and staff are compassionate and dedicated to providing outstanding customer service. We also use the most advanced equipment available."

Expert care, close to home

Patients have the option of doctor appointments at UTMB Health Eye Centers in Friendswood or Galveston. They can choose to have their surgeries at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston or the new Victory Lakes Surgical Center in League City, both UTMB Health facilities.

What should patients expect with cataract surgery?

Dr. Merkley explains to his patients that the eye lens is shaped like an M&M candy. The surgeon opens the shell with a tiny 2mm incision, removes the chocolate and replaces it with a lens. The outpatient surgery takes about 20 minutes. Patients can return to work and other routine activities two days after surgery. Patients rarely experience any pain but may have a scratchy feeling in their eyes for a few days.

Call to schedule a cataract evaluation at a UTMB Health Eye Center near you.

Want to read more about cataracts?

Don't be afraid of cataract surgery (LINK to news item)
eyeSmart®: What Are Cataracts?

Skin around the eyes is the thinnest on the face and can show the first signs of aging. Over time, eyelid skin can stretch and even limit vision. The same problem causes "bags" to form under the eyes.

Fortunately, a common surgery can improve side vision and appearance. In some cases, medical insurance can pay some of the costs.

UTMB Health ophthalmologist Dr. Brian Wong said, "We can submit photos and document peripheral vision loss from droopy eyelids for possible insurance coverage."

Dr. Wong is a fellowship-trained surgeon specializing in oculoplastics, a wide variety of surgical procedures that deal with the eye socket, eyelids, tear ducts, and the face.

In his more than 20 years at UTMB he has performed hundreds of eyelid surgeries.

"I work closely with each patient to make sure they get the expected outcome. I want them to be well cared for and happy every step of the way, from evaluation to surgery and follow-up care."

In addition to continuing to care for patients, Dr. Wong is applying his extensive experience to a new role, medical director, for UTMB Health Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Click here to read more.

Treating diabetic retinopathy with compassionate care, leading technology

Why should someone choose the UTMB Health Eye Center for retina care? Because patients receive compassionate, holistic care and leading-edge treatments provided by the nation’s most highly trained doctors.

First and foremost, we are committed to giving our patients quality, compassionate care. We take a holistic approach to caring for our patients who have diabetes or who are at risk of developing diabetic eye disease.

Approximately 23.6 million people in the United States have diabetes and one-third of them do not know it. Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness among adults, and people with diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind than people without it. By detecting and treating diabetic retinopathy early through annual, dilated eye exams, people with diabetes can preserve their sight.

If you notice a sudden decrease in vision, a block in a certain part of your visual field, floaters or flashes of light, you should see a retina specialist.

High blood-sugar levels from diabetes can damage blood vessels in the retina, the layer of nerve tissue at the back of your eye, resulting in diabetic retinopathy. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent vision loss, and it's important that people with diabetes maintain control of their blood sugar.

We discuss with our patients their blood sugar levels, weight control and other risk factors to prevent diabetic retinopathy. We also communicate with letters to their primary care providers to ensure a seamless, team approach.

UTMB Health Eye Center doctors, who have trained at the nation's top institutions, also collaborate with the UTMB Stark Diabetes Center staff to identify and treat patients with diabetic eye diseases, again providing holistic patient care.

We also take pride in caring for our patients with the newest technologies and treatments.

As a leading academic and research center, ophthalmologists at the UTMB Health Eye Center conduct clinical studies to research the newest treatments.

Working in a culture that constantly seeks treatment advancements, we are part of a nationwide network of doctors who compare research results to evaluate and confirm the most effective new treatments for our patients.

Eye Center doctors also use leading imaging technology and surgical center equipment in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

Doctors in academic centers are constantly striving to find the best care. At UTMB, there are more retina specialists than at any other academic center in the area, and we have a culture of constant improvement in treatments.

For additional information about diabetic retinopathy, including how it is treated, visit the diabetic retinopathy section of EyeCare America.

The retina is a layer of tissue in the back of your eye that senses light and sends images to your brain. In the center of this nerve tissue is the macula. It provides the sharp, central vision needed for reading, driving and seeing fine detail.

Retinal disorders affect this vital tissue. They can affect your vision, and some can be serious enough to cause blindness. Read more about retinal disorders.

NIH: National Eye Institute  
New minimally invasive glaucoma treatment can save vision

Glaucoma patients now have a new treatment option that could save their vision. UTMB Health Eye Center is one of the only centers in Texas treating patients with the Trabectome.

"This extremely innovative technology provides the first minimally invasive approach to treat glaucoma," according to UTMB Health glaucoma specialist Dr. Gianmarco Vizzeri.

"It is safer than more traditional treatments and gives patients a faster recovery time. It's especially effective for patients with early to moderate stages of open-angle glaucoma."

Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness, is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, gradually stealing sight without warning. In the early stages of the disease, there may be no symptoms. Comprehensive eye exams to detect glaucoma include careful evaluation of the optic nerve and measurement of eye pressure.

UTMB Health glaucoma specialist Dr. Misha Syed explained how the leading-edge procedure works.

"Trabectome offers a minimally invasive way to relieve damaging pressure in the eye by restoring the eye's natural drainage pathways. This helps prevent further optic nerve damage."

Trabectome Procedure

In the simple, three-step procedure, the surgeon uses the Trabectome to make a tiny incision in the eye. An electrosurgical pulse gently removes a small strip of the diseased tissue. Finally the area is rinsed with saline solution to remove tissue debris, leaving the eye to recover almost immediately.

Vizzeri added, "Trabectome is an out-patient surgery that allows the patient to go home the same day and recover more quickly than with other types of glaucoma surgery. It also can be combined with cataract surgery.

Glaucoma patients can receive a complete eye evaluation to see if they qualify for treatment with the Trabectome at either the Galveston or Friendswood location of the UTMB Health Eye Center.

"As the only center to offer Trabectome in the entire Southeast Texas region, patients from the greater Houston area, Galveston County, Beaumont, Friendswood, Pearland and beyond can benefit from this leading-edge treatment," Syed said.

To schedule an appointment with Vizzeri or Syed, call 409-747-5800 (Galveston) or 281-996-7564 (Friendswood).

View Trabectome videos.


Prevent vision loss from glaucoma with early detection

Glaucoma, a leading cause of irreversible blindness, can be controlled with early diagnosis and treatment, say glaucoma specialists at the UTMB Health Eye Center.

The eye specialists at the centers in Friendswood and Galveston are highly qualified and experienced in diagnosing and managing glaucoma at all stages of the disease.

Annual screening is especially important because half of the 3-4 million people in the U.S. who have glaucoma do not realize it because there are often no warning symptoms.

Glaucoma specialist Dr. Misha Syed, said, "We employ the most advanced imaging technology for early diagnosis and for monitoring disease progression."

Specialist Dr. Gianmarco Vizzeri added, "Because we also conduct lab and clinical research, our patients benefit from the most advanced, sophisticated treatments."

Drs. Syed and Vizzeri also are actively engaged in finding new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities to prevent vision loss due to glaucoma at UTMB's Ophthalmology Clinical Research Center (OCRC).

An annual exam is recommended to screen for glaucoma. Our glaucoma specialists also evaluate and treat patients already diagnosed with glaucoma without a physician referral. Call the UTMB Health Eye Center nearest you to schedule an appointment:

Galveston location: 409-747-5800
Friendswood location: 281-996-7564


About glaucoma

Glaucoma is a relatively common condition. An estimated 3-4 million individuals in the United States from 45 years of age or older have this disease.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that leads to the death of neurons that connect the retina to visual centers in the brain. This connection is through the optic nerve located in the back of the eye, through which in a healthy eye more than 1 million neurons come together to enter the brain.

The cause of cell death is not known, but one theory is that the neurons are mechanically impinged as they enter the optic nerve, obstructing the metabolism of the neuron, leading to cell death.

This optic nerve, the width of 150 microns (one-tenth the diameter of angel hair pasta) is evaluated by the ophthalmologist through a microscope and technologically sophisticated imaging systems. These techniques allow the ophthalmologist to detect neuronal damage, and when found, help monitor for any progression.

In addition to direct evaluation of the optic nerve, the visual field test is an extremely useful tool in diagnosis and following for progression in glaucoma. This is due to the often insidious nature of untreated glaucoma, in which in the early stages only peripheral vision is affected. Unfortunately, in advanced disease the damage is not limited to the peripheral vision; central vision may also be affected.

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Risk factors

It was once believed that glaucoma was caused by high pressures in the eye. It is now known that high pressure is not the cause of glaucoma, but rather a risk factor.

Other factors that can place a person at risk for glaucoma include family history of the disease, age, African or Hispanic descent, prior eye trauma, and systemic illnesses such as migraine headaches and diabetes.


Treating glaucoma

In conjunction with internists who monitor systemic illnesses, the most significant risk factor that the ophthalmologist can modify is the pressure in the eye. This is most commonly done with pressure-lowering eye drop medications.

Various forms of laser therapy also can be used, depending on the specific type of glaucoma being treated. Additionally, surgical treatments can be performed, typically if the above treatments fail.

UTMB Health Eye Center is one of the only centers in Texas treating patients with the Trabectome. This extremely innovative technology is the first minimally invasive approach to treat glaucoma. It is safer than more traditional treatments and gives patients a faster recovery time.

There is no cure for glaucoma at this time. However, through early detection, diagnose and treatment, the ophthalmologist can help preserve the vision of the patient with glaucoma.


Links to more information about glaucoma

The Glaucoma Foundation
American Academy of Ophthalmology
World Glaucoma Patient Association
Trabectome videos
UTMB Glaucoma PowerPoint

Experienced LASIK specialist and ophthalmologist Dr. Kevin H. Merkley leads the UTMB Health Eye Center.

Dr. Merkley has more than 17 years of experience in private practice as a cataract, cornea and refractive surgeon. He holds both a medical degree and a master's degree in business administration.

He has performed more than 20,000 ophthalmic procedures including corneal transplants, LASIK, PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) and astigmatic corrections.

"The exciting thing about refractive surgery is that new technologies continue to come forward as older technologies continue to improve," Dr. Merkley said. "This will allow us to treat an increasingly wide spectrum of patients and refractive errors with even more predictable outcomes than we have enjoyed in the past."

Dr. Merkley treats a wide range of eye conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma, cornea/external disease, diabetic eye disease, macular degeneration, and refractive errors.

Dr. Merkley also serves on the faculty of the UTMB Health Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, using his wealth of experience to train UTMB ophthalmology residents.

Dr. Merkley added, "I look forward to meeting new patients in Southeast Texas and helping them to enjoy better vision. We truly live in a remarkable time!"

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Merkley, call (409) 747-5800. For information about LASIK, call (281) 687-7022.