A cataract is a common condition that causes a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, and affects millions of people each year, including more than half of all Americans over the age of 65. Cloudiness develops as a result of a buildup of protein in the lens.
Cataracts cause a progressive, painless loss of vision. The lens clouds naturally as we age, causing people over the age of 65 to see a gradual reduction of vision. However, cataracts are not considered part of the natural aging process and are a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention. The exact cause of cataracts is unknown, although it may be a result of injury, certain medications, illnesses (such as diabetes), prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light and smoking.
Your doctor may perform a series of tests in order to diagnose a cataract. A dilated eye exam will be performed to test the vision and to examine the condition of the lens and other parts of the eye. Your doctor may also perform tonometry, a procedure that measures the pressure in the eye.
Symptoms of 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:
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Double vision
- Poor vision in bright light
- Seeing halos around lights
- Poor vision at night
- Yellowish tinged vision
- Frequent changes in eyeglasses or contact lens prescription
Treatment of Cataracts
If visual impairment begins to interfere with your ability to read, work or do the things you enjoy, you may want to consider cataract surgery to restore your vision. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the US, and can be performed quickly and easily with a success rate of over 90 percent and a minimal risk of complications.
Risks and Complications
If left untreated, cataracts will worsen over time and may lead to permanent vision loss or even blindness. It is important to see your eye doctor regularly in order to detect cataracts as early as possible and to plan an effective treatment method.
Although cataract surgery is considered safe, there are certain risks associated with any surgery. Some of these risks may include pain, infection, swelling and bleeding. Most patients undergo this procedure without any complications.
During cataract surgery, your doctor replaces the clouded, blurry area of the lens with an artificial one to correct vision. However, after surgery, many people experience a gradual clouding on the covering of the new lens, a condition known as aftercataract or secondary membrane. Clouding is the most common complication of cataract surgery and can cause blurred vision to return, but a solution is available to treat this side effect.
A procedure called a posterior capsulotomy, using an Nd: YAG laser, can be performed to remove the back lining of the lens capsule & let light pass through to the retina. The laser cuts a hole in the back lining and helps remove cloudiness in the lens.
The capsulotomy can be performed in your doctor’s office and is a painless procedure that does not require any anesthesia. It is considered a safe procedure and most people only experience short-term increased eye pressure.
A YAG capsulotomy cannot prevent clouding of the lens, but can be beneficial to the 1 in 4 people who experience this complication. It is important to weigh the possible risks and benefits, similar to that of the original cataract surgery, before deciding upon treatment. Most people experience improved vision and reduced glare after undergoing a posterior capsulotomy.
Premium Lens Implants
During cataract surgery, artificial lenses are implanted in the eye to replace the cloudy natural lenses. These artificial lenses, known as intraocular lenses (IOLs), were once only able to correct distance vision, leaving patients dependent on eyeglasses or contact lenses for near vision. Many cataract patients, in addition to suffering from either nearsightedness or farsightedness, also suffer from presbyopia, natural changes to the eyes that occur as we age.
Before premium lenses, patients were unable to see clearly at both near and far distances without the use of eyeglasses or contact lenses. Early lens implants were monofocal, meaning that they had only one focal point and could not adjust to varying distances.
New advances in technology have allowed for the development of multifocal IOLs, which let patients see clearly at all distances, and can even correct astigmatism as well. Premium lens implants are ideal for cataract patients who are also suffering from presbyopia and want a replacement lens that provides a full range of clear vision.
There are several different types of premium lens implants available for cataract patients. Your doctor will work with you to decide which lens is best for your individual eyes to help you enjoy long-lasting, clear vision at near, intermediate and far distances. To speak with one of our doctors and discuss your options for cataract replacement lenses, please call us today to schedule a consultation.