What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the normally transparent lens within the eye. Changes may be so gradual that you are not aware of the cataract’s effect at first. Cataracts are the most common cause of blurred vision for people over the age of 50. Although there is no medicine or diet to cure cataracts, surgical removal of the cataract and replacement with a permanent artificial lens implant can restore lost vision.
What are the Symptoms?
Cataracts cause visual symptoms only; they do not cause pain, discomfort, tearing, redness, or floaters. The visual symptoms can vary. Blurriness, hazy vision, or increased glare from sunlight and headlights may be present. Some cataracts turn yellow, causing fading of color. Reading may take more effort, and you may tire prematurely. Vision progressively worsens over a period of years or sometimes after only a few months.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts are caused by the natural aging process that occurs to the lens inside of our eye. Though there are other risk factors for cataracts, aging is the most common cause. Some of the other risk factors involve having a family history of cataracts, certain medications and certain medical problems, such as diabetes. If you have experienced an eye injury, eye surgery, or have had radiation treatments on your upper body you may develop cataracts at an earlier time or at a more rapid rate. Spending extended amounts of time in the sun without wearing UV protected sunglasses is also a risk factor.
What is a “Lens Implant”?
To take the place of the clouded human lens, a tiny, highly engineered artificial lens is implanted into the eye. This implant is permanent. The “prescription” power of each patient’s implant is selected based on computer calculations that use a series of precise eye measurements performed in the office prior to surgery.
Is the Surgery Performed with a Laser?
Lasers may be appropriate in some cases. Patients can choose to have their cataract surgery in the traditional way or with the use of a laser. The YAG laser is sometimes employed months to years following cataract surgery. Although the cataract cannot recur, the capsule behind the implant may later cloud and affect vision. This is not a complication. Thanks to the YAG laser, this can be painlessly corrected.
What are the Risks of Cataract Surgery?
There is some risk with any surgical procedure. For each patient, individual risks and benefits are carefully weighed. Fortunately, inexperienced hands, severe complications that could worsen the vision are rare. The chances of eyelid, cornea, retina, and ocular pressure problems may depend on individual circumstances, but all may occur even without surgery – i.e. with aging alone. With modern advances in technique, more than 98% of patients with otherwise healthy eyes will gain significant visual improvement following surgery.
What is the Experience of Surgery Like?
The eye is numbed by anesthetic drops. Thanks to light sedation, you will feel calm and relaxed, but awake in a twilight state. Since your lids are gently held open, you will see light, but not the operation itself. This most advanced method eliminates sutures, eye bandages, and postoperative restrictions for most patients. Since the surgery takes less than 30 minutes, even patients in poor health can successfully undergo cataract surgery.
What is the Recovery Like Following Surgery?
You will receive detailed written instructions on care after the operation. The eye surface may feel scratchy at first. With small incision surgery, you may resume everyday activities and physical exercise as soon as you like.
As with any surgery, the healing period will vary with each individual. Use of the eye is not harmful, but the vision is normally blurry at first. Your eyeglass prescription will be different after surgery and will be changed approximately one month later.
Thanks to the many advances in cataract surgery, we can safely restore excellent vision to most people with cataracts. Three million Americans enjoy the benefits of renewed sight through cataract surgery each year.