Cataracts is a disease of the eye that results in the clouding of the lens of the eyeball. Cataracts prevent clear images from appearing on the eye’s retina; causing mild, moderate, even severe blurred vision.
Typically an eye disorder associated with aging (over half of the people in America over age 80 have either had a cataract or cataract surgery), cataracts generally occur later in life as the lens structure within the human eye changes and gets older. In addition to age, other risk factors that lead to cataracts include smoking, UV overexposure and diabetes.
During the evaluation of your eye health we will carefully examine your lens for signs of cataract formation. If a cataract is noticed and the clouding is causing visual disruption, the optometrist will refer you to a trusted and respected surgeon for surgery, which is the only known cure for cataracts. Our Eye Care Practice will be there for you providing pre and post cataract surgery care.
Cataract surgery is the removal of the natural lens of the eye (also called “crystalline lens”) that has developed an opacification, which is referred to as a cataract. Metabolic changes of the crystalline lens fibers over the time lead to the development of the cataract and loss of transparency, causing impairment or loss of vision. During cataract surgery, a patient’s cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a synthetic lens to restore the transparency of the lens.
Following surgical removal of the natural lens, an artificial intraocular lens implant is inserted (eye surgeons say that the lens is “implanted”). Cataract surgery is generally performed by an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) in an ambulatory (rather than inpatient) setting, in a surgical center or hospital, using local anesthesia (either topical, peribulbar, or retrobulbar), usually causing little or no discomfort to the patient. Well over 90% of operations are successful in restoring useful vision, with a low complication rate. Outpatient care, high volume, minimally invasive, small incision phacoemulsification with quick post-op recovery has become the standard of care in cataract surgery all over the world.
Signs & Symptoms
Cataracts don’t suddenly develop overnight. They generally start off small and only begin to noticeably affect your vision as they grow. The first symptom is usually that your vision becomes blurred, hazy or cloudy. Additionally, you may become sensitive to light, making sunlight, oncoming headlights or indoor lighting appear exceptionally glaring or bright. Colors may seem dim and you may notice halos around lights or double vision.
The symptoms people experience from cataracts may vary. Some individuals even report a temporary improvement in near vision when a cataract first develops, a phenomenon known as “second sight”.
Here is a list of possible signs and symptoms of developing cataracts:
- Blurry or cloudy vision (that can’t be corrected with a change in eyeglass prescription)
- Glare from lamps, sunlight, oncoming traffic when driving at night or indoor lighting
- Colors appear dim and less vibrant
- Halos around lights
- Double vision
- Poor night vision
- Sudden improvement in near vision
If you experience any change in your vision, visit your eye doctor immediately.
Causes of Cataracts
Cataracts are part of the natural aging process of the eye and therefore, if you live to an old age, you will likely eventually develop one. While most cases of cataracts develop as part of this process, there are instances of congenital cataracts which are present at birth. Further, secondary or traumatic cataracts can occur at any age as a result of an eye injury, surgery or disease.While the risk of developing a cataract does increase as you age, it is not the only risk factor. Research shows that there are environmental, health and behavioral risk factors that can also play a role in cataract development. Many of these risk factors are avoidable and preventable. These risk factors include:
- Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources
- Certain medications such as steroids or statin medications
- History of eye injury or eye surgery
- Family history
Since they are largely a part of the the natural aging process of the eye, cataracts can’t necessarily be avoided, however knowing if you have additional risk factors can help you to take preventative steps to delay the onset of the condition.
While development of cataracts is largely associated with age, there are other factors that can increase the risk of developing the condition. By knowing these risk factors, there are steps you can take to delay or prevent the development of cataracts:
- Sun Protection: Ultraviolet radiation can be a factor in the development of cataracts. It is recommended to protect your eyes from ultraviolet sunlight by wearing 100% UV protective sunglasses and a hat with a brim when you are exposed to the sun.
- Stop Smoking and Limit Alcohol Intake: These habits have been shown to increase the chances of developing cataracts, so if you smoke or regularly consume large amounts of alcohol – stop these habits.
- Proper Nutrition: Research shows that maintaining good health and nutrition can also reduce the risk of age-related cataracts, particularly by eating foods rich with vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E and other antioxidants found in green leafy vegetables, fruit and a diet rich in Omega-3s.
- Regular Eye Exams: Once you reach the age of 50, or if you have diabetes or other eye conditions, it is important to have a comprehensive eye exam every year to check for signs of cataracts and other age-related eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma. Early detection and treatment for many of these eye and vision disorders is often essential to save your vision.
Intraocular Lenses (IOLs)
During cataract surgery, the Intraocular lens (IOL) replaces the clouded natural lens in your eye to provide the function of focusing light onto the retina. IOLs are usually made of plastic and most of them are monofocal lenses to correct for distance vision.With advances in technology, specialized IOLs have and continue to be developed to improve the ease and success of cataract surgery and to improve the patient’s vision. Now, from multifocal IOLs to IOLs that block UV and blue light radiation, patients have greater options available to them.