Blinded by the Light No More
Cheryl Ladd discusses the newest lenses for cataract surgery
“You don’t know how bad your eyesight really is because its deterioration is gradual,” said actor and decorator Cheryl Ladd.
Ladd was in New York City last spring to talk about the innovative trifocal cataract lenses, AcrySof IQ PanOptix, from Alcon, the eye health company for which the former Charlie’s Angel is a paid spokesperson. Ladd herself had cataract surgery last year using these lenses, and unlike cataract surgery patients in the past who often had to use corrective eyewear post-operation, Ladd lives glasses-free.
“Now, I can read close, see my screens and see clearly at a distance,” Ladd boasts, enjoying her newfound freedom from the glasses upon which she had relied for years.
“Vision loss happens so gradually, we learn to reconcile at each step — and you accept each step,” she explained. “But then you get to a point where you know something needs to be done.”
The turning point for Ladd was needing to drive home one night and not being able to see clearly. Over time, the headlights of oncoming cars created a bright glare, making it difficult for Ladd to see, and she felt increasingly insecure and unsafe about night driving. She first experienced the vision discomfort about two years before surgery. Her ophthalmologist explained that the condition would worsen, which it did, within a year. She had one eye operated on and then the other, and she is blown away by how improved her overall eyesight is.
“I thought it was going to improve my eyesight, but it is extraordinary. Colors are brighter, things are clearer,” Ladd explained, noting that pre-surgery, she felt like all she saw was a sepia-hued world. Post-surgery, she felt like she “skipped into Oz,” referring to the part of The Wizard of Oz film that transitions from black and white into color.
Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. When people are around 40 years old, protein in the eye’s lens begins to break down, causing cloudiness and leading to the formation of cataracts. The tricky thing is that you might not have any vision loss from cataracts until years later when you’re over 65 years old, explains the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
The National Eye Institute notes that cataracts affect more than 24.4 million Americans age 40 and older. By age 75, approximately half of all Americans have cataracts. According to the AAO, age is the most common cause of cataracts, but health issues such as diabetes, or external causes such as exposure to the sun’s damaging UV rays, can also lead to cataracts. Outpatient or hospital-based surgery whereby the cataract is replaced by a synthetic lens is the only solution to combating this vision loss.
Having renewed vision has been essential for Ladd. She continues to act, but has added interior decorating to her resume, launching Cheryl Ladd Signature Homes a few years ago, alongside her husband of 35-plus years, Brian Russell. The decorating is an outgrowth of the couple’s old pastime of going to open houses for homes listed for sale in Los Angeles. They remodeled their former home in the Bird Streets neighborhood of Los Angeles twice before building a custom home in the Santa Ynez valley. Ladd’s first house for Signature Homes, built with Garner Homes of Texas, was unveiled in 2017 at the luxe Cordillera Ranch residential golf and resort community in Boerne, TX, near San Antonio. Being able to see clearly again has allowed Ladd to get back to decor, where her passion is choosing color, fabrics, textures, and materials for interiors.
Ladd, who just turned 69, is petite, pretty, and fit. Her warm, radiant smile is unchanged since her Charlie’s Angels days, and her eyes are sparkling blue. She loves doing Zumba, and gets other cardio exercise by regularly walking her two dogs. Ladd is also religious, enjoys being in choir, and uses prayer as a form of meditation and way to practice gratitude.
“When I start to feel anxious, I pray, sit in my garden and contemplate, and try to be thankful,” Ladd says.
She urges women — and men — to get their eyes and eyesight checked regularly, especially if you notice changes in vision. The AAO recommends getting a complete eye exam when you’re 40 — unless you experience problems before that. After that, your ophthalmologist will advise you on how often to return.
Ladd notes that often people hear the word “cataract” and it triggers emotions of feeling old, making them feel bad.
“Sure, it does. But you also don’t have to be living like this,” Ladd notes, referring to diminished vision. “Now, I’m living again in this bright, beautiful world. [The surgery] has really given me a new lease on life.”