VA center providing surgical eye care

HARLINGEN — This week, the VA Health Care Center in Harlingen began providing new surgical services to treat eye conditions that personnel say are most prevalent among Valley and traveling veterans.

Currently, the surgical program includes cataract surgery, laser posterior capsulotomy and laser peripheral iridotomy.

Cataract surgeries remove patient’s cloudy, natural lenses and replace them with an implant lens to help restore vision.

Laser posterior capsulotomy helps address harmless, but visually significant scar tissue that can sometimes form around the implant lens after previous cataract surgery.

Laser peripheral iridotomy is a procedure which helps to safeguard certain individuals from vision loss who have narrow angles or drains inside the eye.

VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Public Affairs Officer Reynaldo Leal said cataracts are especially common to this region because of its geographical location and UV exposure.

The center’s new ophthalmologist, Dr. Brian Schallenberg, began conducting surgeries last Wednesday.

As of date, two cataract surgeries have been performed.

The health care center provides veterans with a cataract surgery post-op kit that includes all necessary drops on the day of surgery. Center personnel do this to help veterans eliminate the need to go to the pharmacy or waiting for drops in the mail.

“ We are very pleased to provide this type of service to our veterans,” VCB Chief of Medicine Dr. Jorge Ortegon stated in a press release. “There’s been a need for this service for some time and we are happy to announce that it is now available here.”

Leal said the health care center is actively working on implementing pterygium surgery and blepharoplasty.

Pterygia are fleshy growths over the sides of the cornea, the clear front window of the eye.

Blepharoplasty is a procedure to help remove saggy or redundant skin which overhangs the upper eyelids and interferes with vision.

According to a press release, only patients who are referred by their primary and specialty care providers will be seen by the surgical ophthalmologist at this time.

Eligible veterans in areas distant from the locations that offer this service may be able to receive surgical ophthalmologist care through the center’s outpatient fee-basis program after a referral by their primary care provider and prior authorization by the department.

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