Meet an energetic Rockford-area eye specialist who’s not only pushing the bounds of his field but giving back to his hometown.
Not many people can say they’ve operated on their own father, but Dr. Edward Yavitz, an ophthalmologist, has performed his father’s eye surgeries.
“His vision was poor and he needed three pairs of glasses to function at various tasks,” Yavitz says. “He was always hopeful that one day I could figure out what was wrong with his eyes and help him.”
Not only did Yavitz fulfill that hope, but he also became an eye doctor who operates on fellow eye doctors. After attending Harvard Medical School and the University of California-San Francisco Department of Ophthalmology, Yavitz’s long-standing interest in the eye blossomed into a fruitful career.
Today, out of 400,000 surgeons in America, only 15,000 are eye surgeons. This niche of talented individuals felt like a comfortable fit to Yavitz. In addition to wanting to help his father, Yavitz also had a passion for the innovation aspect of ophthalmology. In fact, he’s been inventing techniques and equipment related to the field since his Harvard days.
“Eye surgeons on the whole tend to be inventive people,” Yavitz says. “Many discoveries of eye surgeons have benefited other specialties. I’m very inventive myself, so it was attractive to me to pick a field where invention was the hallmark of the practitioner.”
Currently, Yavitz has 37 patents and new ones pending. Not all of his ideas are eye-related; Yavitz has patents related to music, farming and even golf balls. However, he’s especially proud of his patents linked to ophthalmology, including one from 2007 that provides Internet visual guidance for the blind.
Over the years, Yavitz has seen more than 100,000 patients at his practice, Yavitz Eye Center, 4105 N. Perryville Road, Loves Park. He now operates on his earliest patients’ children and grandchildren.
And every single patient has access to his personal cell phone number.
“I find that by the time an answering service connects me to the patient, I could have already solved the problem in most cases,” Yavitz says. “Direct communication is vital to timely care, and patients are very respectful about this privilege.”
A New Treatment for Glaucoma
On May 2, 2017, Yavitz became the first Stateline surgeon to perform a new procedure to treat glaucoma. He conducted the painless procedure called “canaloplasty” in less than 10 minutes.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, glaucoma is an eye disease that usually results from fluid building up in the front part of your eye. The extra fluid increases the pressure in your eye, causing damage to the optic nerve. If untreated, this damage can lead to blindness. In fact, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over age 60.
By performing canaloplasty, Yavitz restores the eye’s natural drainage system by threading a tiny tube through blocked channels and clearing them.
“The procedure is similar to angioplasty – where you treat a heart that’s blocked,” Yavitz says. “Basically, all the fluid in the eye drains out through a circular channel.”
With this procedure, patients often are able to stop taking one or more of their expensive glaucoma eye drops – the usual method for controlling glaucoma. Canaloplasty adds to the broad repertoire of glaucoma procedures Yavitz offers, including iStents, ECP laser, trabeculectomy and shunts.
Yavitz urges people not to take their eye health for granted. Glaucoma is an especially stealthy disease, as there’s no way to notice that your eye pressure is above normal.
“Your brain fills in the holes in your vision,” Yavitz says. “You may have vision like Swiss cheese, but your brain fills in the blank spots so it appears that your visual field is full, even though it isn’t.”
The only way to be sure that you don’t have glaucoma is to have a routine annual checkup with an eye care professional, Yavitz adds. Blindness can be prevented with early treatment.
A New Way to Treat Cataracts
Yavitz has always valued inventions that lead to an increased quality of life.
Recently, he discovered a new way to use replacement lens implants for people with cataracts.
“Cataracts are a big topic,” Yavitz says. “They affect 50 percent of people over age 60.”
Inside your eye, there’s a natural lens that helps you to see. The lens starts out clear, but turns into a cataract after years of sun damage that cause the lens to become cloudy. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, having a cataract is like looking through a foggy car windshield. Things are blurry, hazy or less colorful.
To get rid of a cataract, surgery is necessary. An ophthalmologist removes your natural lens and replaces it with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). Yavitz introduced a new IOL called the Symfony lens, which is the first and only lens that provides continuous, high-quality vision at any distance.
“There are limitations with other lenses,” Yavitz says.
The usual single-focal implant provided by Medicare and health insurers is focused just for distance – you still have to wear reading glasses to see at arms length or closer. Improved multi-focal IOLs allow for both distance and reading vision, but distance vision isn’t quite as sharp and there can be a glare at night. Plus, multi-focal IOLs can cost up to $6,000 out of pocket because they must be placed in both eyes.
So, Yavitz offers the new Symfony IOL to solve these problems. He’s writing a paper on the use of the Symfony lens in one eye only, which saves his patients thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.
“I discovered that, by putting a single-focus distance implant in the dominant eye and the Symfony implant in the non-dominant eye, the overall vision is vastly superior,” Yavitz says. “I’m always looking for a better result and a happier patient who isn’t burdened with extra expense.”
Positive Feedback for LASIK Surgery
When it comes to advertising, word-of-mouth recommendations have high credibility. The free opinion of a trusted friend or family member carries more weight than any paid-for commercial.
Thanks to strong word-of-mouth, Yavitz draws patients from across the Midwest for LASIK eye surgery – a procedure that involves reshaping the cornea in order to treat farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism.
“I have 10,000 happy LASIK patients, which creates quite a sales force,” Yavitz says. “All you have to do is go to the Internet and see the comments.”
With such positive word-of-mouth feedback, Yavitz spends less on advertising and keeps fees for LASIK up to 50 percent less than other offices.
“People like to go to someone who has a lot of experience,” Yavitz explains.
He completes three steps during a LASIK procedure. First, he precisely creates a flap and folds back a thin layer of the cornea. Second, using an excimer laser, he removes an exact amount of corneal tissue in seconds. Finally, he folds the corneal tissue back into place, allowing it to adhere without the need for stitches.
Yavitz performs more than 100 LASIK eye surgeries per month and has taught LASIK around the world.
He even has several patents for devices used to make LASIK a safer, more predictable surgery.
Treating the ‘Little Insects’ in Your Eye
Floaters aren’t usually a serious problem, but they can be annoying.
“They look like little insects flying around in front of you,” Yavitz says. “It bothers people – they think there’s something in front of them when there’s not. It’s actually a problem inside the eye.”
People often complain of floaters after they get cataract surgery, Yavitz adds. Floaters are also more common in people who are nearsighted or who have had inflammation in their eye.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells that float inside the vitreous of your eye. These tiny clumps look like small specks, dots, circles, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision. They deceivingly appear to be floating in front of you, and are easier to notice when looking at something plain, like a blank wall or blue sky.
Though floaters tend to fade away over time, ophthalmologists can remove severe occurrences by surgery. Yavitz removes floaters at his office, saving patients up to $500 in comparison to going to a surgery center.
“I use a laser to remove them,” Yavitz says. “I can see them by shining a light into the eye under a lens. They look like little white specks floating around, and I use the laser to disintegrate them.”
A Love for Rockford
Of all cities throughout the country, Yavitz chose Rockford to locate his practice. He and his former wife, Adrienne Butler, an oncologist, raised their two sons in Rockford. Having grown up in St. Louis, Yavitz always had an affinity for the Midwest.
In past years, Yavitz has served on the Board of Directors for Keith School, the Catholic Family, Protestant and Jewish Community Services and the Rockford Symphony Orchestra (RSO) boards.
Some people may remember the day Yavitz paid to have Art Linkletter give a lecture at First Free Church, or the time he sponsored the RSO to play a symphony concert just for his post-cataract surgery patients.
Though Yavitz is obviously very bright, most people are pleasantly surprised to discover how approachable and friendly he is.
“I love to take care of rescue pugs; I have eight of them,” Yavitz says. “I love to swim two miles a day and play golf. People who expect to meet a brainiac discover that I’m actually a pretty normal guy with good ideas and a lot of energy. That’s what happens when you treat your patients like family.”