What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a result of natural change occurring inside your eye, a gradual clouding within the eye which leads to a decrease in vision. It is the most common cause of blindness and is conventionally treated with a simple surgery.
A person with a cataract can experience difficulties when conducting everyday activities such as reading or driving. Thankfully, treatment and restoring the gift of your eyesight has never been easier. With new advances in cataract surgery, patients recover quickly, allowing them to return home after treatment.
If you’ve been diagnosed with cataracts, you’re likely familiar with the frustration associated with the condition and it isn’t just your vision that’s affected, but your very ability to interact with the world around you. Although cataract surgery has existed in one form or another for centuries, recent innovations have transformed it into one of the safest and most effective outpatient procedures.
Through the use of intraocular lenses (IOLs) patients are now able to recover more youthful eyesight.
Symptoms of a Cataract
The most common symptoms of a cataract are:
- Cloudy or blurry vision.
- Colors seem faded.
- Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights.
- Poor night vision.
- Double vision or multiple images in one eye. (This symptom may clear as the cataract gets larger.)
- Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your eye care professional.
The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.
A cataract needs to be removed only when vision loss interferes with your everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. You and your eye care professional can make this decision together. Once you understand the benefits and risks of surgery, you can make an informed decision about whether cataract surgery is right for you. In most cases, delaying cataract surgery will not cause long-term damage to your eye or make the surgery more difficult. You do not have to rush into surgery.
Sometimes a cataract should be removed even if it does not cause problems with your vision. For example, a cataract should be removed if it prevents examination or treatment of another eye problem, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.
If you choose surgery, your eye care professional may refer you to a specialist to remove the cataract.
If you have cataracts in both eyes that require surgery, the surgery will be performed on each eye at separate times, usually four weeks apart.
Monofocal IOLs offer no focal adjustment function and have only a single focus point. Patients implanted with monofocal IOLs have the same presbyopic condition as before the surgery. If the implanted lens is set for better distant vision, then the near vision suffers. Conversely, if the lens’ focus point is set for near distances to allow reading books or computer screens, a patient will have trouble watching TV or recognizing acquaintances when passing them on the street. Therefore, eyeglasses will be required after surgery.
Multifocal IOLs are designed based on a cutting-edge optical theory for distributing light in such a manner that provides multiple points of focus, thereby eliminating the dependence on eyeglasses in daily life. However, for very far away landscapes or fine print, eyeglasses may still be needed.
Extended Depth of Focus
Extended depth of focus IOLs provide high quality, continuous vision — from near to far and points in between — and may reduce the overall wearing of glasses.
Frequently Asked Questions
The lens lies behind the iris and the pupil. It works much like a camera lens. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where an image is recorded. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is made of mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it.
But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.
Researchers suspect that there are several causes of cataract, such as smoking and diabetes. Or, it may be that the protein in the lens just changes from the wear and tear it takes over the years.
The term “age-related” is a little misleading. You don’t have to be a senior citizen to get this type of cataract. In fact, people can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s. But during middle age, most cataracts are small and do not affect vision. It is after age 60 that most cataracts cause problems with a person’s vision.
Itching and mild discomfort are normal after cataract surgery. Some fluid discharge is also common. Your eye may be sensitive to light and touch. If you have discomfort, your doctor can suggest treatment. After one or two days, moderate discomfort should disappear.
For a few weeks after surgery, your doctor may ask you to use eye drops to help healing and decrease the risk of infection. Ask your doctor about how to use your eyedrops, how often to use them, and what effects they can have. You will need to wear an eye shield or eyeglasses to help protect your eye. Avoid rubbing or pressing on your eye.
When you are home, try not to bend from the waist to pick up objects on the floor. Do not lift any heavy objects. You can walk, climb stairs, and do light household chores.
In most cases, healing will be complete within eight weeks. Your doctor will schedule exams to check on your progress.