Cataracts affect millions of people each year, including more than half of all Americans age 60 and older. A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Cloudiness develops as a result of a buildup of protein in the lens. Cataracts can occur in either one eye or both eyes. If left untreated, cataracts will worsen over time and may lead to permanent vision loss or even blindness.
Your eye functions much like a camera. Your natural lens focuses images onto the back of your eye so you can see clearly, much like the lens of a camera focusing images onto film for a clear picture. At birth, your natural lens is clear. However, as you age, the lens may begin to gradually become “cloudy.” This condition is called a cataract, and is usually a result of the natural aging process. As the lens becomes cloudier, your quality of vision may decrease.
A cataract can progress until there is a significant loss of vision in your eye. Surgery is the only way a cataract can be removed.
You should consider surgery when cataracts cause enough loss of vision to interfere with your daily activities.
The lens within the eye clouds naturally as we age, causing a gradual reduction of vision. There are numerous other causes of cataracts, including:
A comprehensive eye examination including a dilated fundus examination, is necessary to diagnose cataracts.
Patients with cataracts often do not experience any symptoms when the condition first develops. Cataracts will continue to progress with no apparent pain, although patients may experience some of the following symptoms:
While you cannot prevent cataracts from developing, you can certainly delay their formation by taking some preventative measures such as:
Early cataracts can something be treated with non-surgical methods such as:
If the cataracts begin to interfere with reading ability, work or other daily activities, cataract surgery may be recommended. If cataracts are in both eyes, surgery will be performed on one eye at a time, usually four to eight weeks apart. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the United States.
After you and your ophthalmologist have decided that you will have your cataract removed, special measurements will be made to determine the length of your eyes and the steepness of your corneas. This will help to determine the suitable IOL for you including whether you may be a good candidate for one of the Advanced Technology Lens Implants to lessen your dependence on glasses after the surgery and/or to lessen your astigmatism.
When you arrive for surgery, you will be given eye drops and perhaps medicines to help you relax. Cataract surgery techniques vary widely. However, the eye is always numbed to make the operation painless.
To perform surgery, your eye surgeon will use a microscope to
have a magnified view of your eye. Your natural lens sits in a bag-like structure called the lens capsule. The lens capsule is located just behind the colored part of your eye (iris). A small incision is made on the outer surface of the eye. Through this opening, the eye surgeon removes the center part of the front of the lens capsule and then inserts a tiny instrument to break up and remove the cataract. An IOL is then placed into the capsule to replace your natural lens that your eye doctor has just removed. The IOL will focus light inside the eye to allow you to see. The surgeon will usually place a shield over your eye after surgery.
You will be ready to go home after a short stay in the outpatient recovery area. Plan to have someone else drive you home.
As with any surgery, there are risks and potential complications associated with cataract surgery and IOL implantation. General surgery risks include reactions to medicines, bleeding, infection, inflammation, tissue damage, tissue swelling of the front or the back of the eye, redness, scratchiness of the eye, sensitivity to light, and increased eye pressure.
If your lens is not in the correct position, your vision may also be affected and the normal flow of fluid within the eye may be blocked. You may require additional surgery to treat these side effects, and there is a small chance that your vision could be made worse by the operation. Please discuss these general risks associated with cataract surgery with your eye doctor.
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