What are Cataracts ?
Cataracts are a common cause for poor vision. The prevalence of cataracts increases with age; more than 50 percent of people over age 55 have these lens opacities and over 70 percent of those over age 75 have this condition.
A cataract is a lens opacity, seen as a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. The amount of clouding may vary; if the clouding is not near the center of the lens, you may be unaware that a cataract is forming. Other people who have a cataract may not see well enough to do the things they need or want to do.
There are a number of symptoms that may lead you to suspect a cataract is developing: blurred, cloudy, foggy or filmy vision with reduction of visual acuity. Problems with glare, or light sensitivity. Double vision. Poor night vision. Frequent changes in your eye glass prescription.
Frequently asked questions and information about cataracts and cataract surgery include:
What causes a cataract ?
There are many conditions associated with cataracts. The most common cause of cataracts is aging. Other causes include: family history; diseases such as diabetes, thyroid problems, or low blood calcium; injury to the eye; prolonged use of steroids, both topical and oral; long-term, unprotected exposure to sunlight. If you fit any of these profiles, it is especially important to have your eyes examined on a regular basis by an eye care specialist.
How is a cataract diagnosed ?
All that is needed to find a cataract is a regular eye exam. Your eye care specialist can detect the presence and extent of your lens opacity as well as any other condition that may be causing blurred vision or discomfort. You will be asked to read a chart to see how sharp your vision is. Your pupils may be enlarged with eye drops so that the inside of your eyes can be examined.
How is a cataract treated?
Initially, a change in your eye glasses, stronger bifocals, or a magnifying glass may help improve your vision sufficiently. Ultimately, this may not be enough and surgery may be indicated. The way to surgically treat a cataract is to remove all or part of the lens and replace it with an artificial lens, an intraocular lens.
When should cataract surgery be considered?
Based on your symptoms, you and your eye care specialist should decide together when surgery is indicated. If your loss of vision interferes with your daily activities, cataract surgery should be considered. Your doctor will discuss the options with you before choosing the best procedure for cataract removal and the best product for lens replacement for you.
What you should know about cataract surgery
- Most people who have cataracts recover from surgery with no problems and improved vision. However, as with any surgical procedure, complications may occur, although most are not permanent and can be corrected. For this reason, surgery has become an increasingly attractive method for improving vision quality.
- As with any surgical procedure, you and your eye care specialist should thoroughly discuss the pros and cons before you make a decision.
- Cataract surgery is usually performed under local anesthesia as an out-patient procedure.
- If you have a cataract in both eyes, experts currently recommend that you wait until your first eye (usually your worst eye) heals before having surgery on the second eye.
- During the surgery the cloudy natural lens is removed from the eye, and the focusing power of the natural lens is restored by replacing it with a permanent artificial lens, an intraocular lens (IOL) implant. Modern microsurgical techniques are used to gently remove the cataract and implant the IOL in your eye.
- The actual operation requires only a few minutes; you may begin using your eye within a few hours and return to your daily activities within a few days of the operation. For most adults undergoing cataract surgery, the results seem miraculous.
- In the hands of a well-trained ophthalmologist, the surgical removal of the cataract and replacement with an IOL is a safe, effective way of improving your vision and allowing you to return to your daily activities.