'I think it's getting worse': Savannah Guthrie reveals she needs cataract surgery following eye injury

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Savannah Guthrie is sharing new details about her eye injury. (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Being a parent can be a dangerous job. Savannah Guthrie needs multiple eye surgeries after her three-year-old son, Charley, inadvertently hit her in the eye with a toy train. 

One of the procedures the 48-year-old TODAY Show co-anchor requires is cataract surgery. 

In an interview with People magazine, Guthrie revealed doctors initially tried to treat her injury with lasers, but she ended up having an operation to repair a tear in the retina of her right eye. She said her vision still “isn’t where it was, and I think it’s getting worse.”

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“When you have this retinal detachment, most people will end up developing cataracts, obviously at a much younger age than would normally be expected,” she explained. “When you have cataracts, you get blurry spots and you notice it more and more.”

Savannah Guthrie requires cataract surgery after suffering an eye injury. (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

A cataract is a clouding of the lens of your eye, which is normally clear. Those with a cataract describe it as looking through a foggy or frosted window, making it difficult to drive, read or even see facial expressions. 

Cataracts are often presumed to be associated with age, but injury can also be a cause. 

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A retinal tear in itself does not lead to a cataract, but there are generally three situations where such a tear can be associated with one, explains Dr. Kevin Gregory-Evans, professor of ophthalmology in the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of British Columbia.

“If the tear was caused by trauma, such as blunt trauma or a penetrating injury, then this trauma may case a cataract in addition to a tear,” Gregory-Evans tells Yahoo Canada. “If ocular surgery is required as opposed to a simple laser procedure, then cataract can be a complication of the surgery.

Savannah Guthrie suffered an eye injury while playing with her son. (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank)

“If a retinal tear has progressed to a retinal detachment which is not treated, then this can lead to pressure and metabolic changes within the eye,” he says. “After a few years the eye will develop a cataract.”

While cataract surgery in people under 65 isn’t common, it’s not as rare as you might think. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, cataracts may first appear in someone’s 40s or 50s but won’t affect vision until after age 60.

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They can also occur in infants. Congenital cataracts (meaning present since birth) can be due to an infection during pregnancy, such as toxoplasmosis, syphilis, rubella, or herpes simplex. 

In babies and young children, cataracts can be one symptom of a metabolic disease affecting the body's processing of carbohydrates, amino acids, calcium, or copper.

Approximately one in 20 surgeries are performed on people under 50, Gregory-Evans says. 

“Usually in such cases there is underlying disease such as diabetes, genetic eye disease or recurrent intraocular inflammation, and so on,” he says. 

Guthrie's plans for surgery have been postponed due to COVID-19. (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness, accounting for approximately 42 percent of all cases around the globe. 

Surgery, which involves replacing the lens, improves the vision of 95 percent of patients.

Guthrie’s surgeries are currently on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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“Hopefully by this summer, I’ll be able to take care of it and start getting back to a better place,” she said. “Eventually I’m hopeful that when everything turns to normal, I’ll be able to schedule those surgeries, and I’m hopeful there’ll be a big improvement. I don’t think my eye will ever be the way it once was, but I think it will be much improved.”

In general, people who have sustained an eye injury shouldn’t be overly concerned about cataracts, Evans-Gregory says. 

Guthrie says she is unsure if her vision will be the same following cataract surgery. (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

“Cataract surgery is often very successful and if permanent vision loss occurs after an eye injury it is rarely due to any associated cataract, unless the patient does not have access to cataract surgery,” he notes. 

Besides foggy vision, other symptoms of cataracts are double vision, sensitivity to glare, a sense that colours appear faded, and seeing halos around lights. People over age 40 are encouraged to have an eye exam every two years, even if they haven’t noticed any change in vision. 

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When it comes to being around small kids, people don’t have to go to extremes like wearing goggles to protect their eyes, but injuries do happen. 

“Eye poking due to babies isn’t that rare actually,” Evans-Gregory said. “I’ve seen it very many times; my own wife also suffered such an injury. Such injuries are usually only superficial and heal within a day or two.”

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