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.
Cataracts cause a progressive, painless loss of vision. The lens clouds naturally as we age, causing people to see a gradual reduction of vision. Other common symptoms associated with cataracts are glare, halos around lights, and decreased contrast sensitivity. The exact cause of cataracts is unknown, although it is most commonly a normal aging process, it may also be a result of injury, certain medications, illnesses (such as diabetes), prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light or 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. Surgery is the only means of correcting a cataract. 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.
Cataract surgery is outpatient surgery and is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the United States. It has a very high success rate. The procedure is termed phacoemulsfication. The surgeon will make two tiny incisions into the eye and using ultrasound will break the cataract up into smaller pieces, thus making the cataract easily removable through the tiny incisions. Often, no stitches are necessary. Surgery is performed as outpatient surgery.
Preliminary usage of lasers to perform a portion of the surgery is being explored. Currently laser surgery is only being used to make an incision into the eye and to make initial incisions into the cataract. The remainder of the surgery is performed by the surgeon in the traditional manner. Currently, our physicians are waiting for long-term data to determine the safety and utility of laser-assisted cataract surgery to be published before performing this on a routine basis.
Can I get a cataract again?
Sometimes the terms "secondary cataract" or "after cataract" are used although this is not actually a redevelopment of a cataract. The natural lens or when it becomes cloudy, the cataract, is situated in the eye in a thin piece of tissue called the lens capsule. The front of this capsule is removed during surgery and the back portion is left in place and holds the lens implant in place. Sometimes this back or posterior portion of the capsule can become cloudy and affect vision similarly to the initial cataract. An in office laser procedure called a YAG capsulotomy can be performed to create a small opening in this capsule, improving the vision. The intraocular lens implant remains untouched.
Contact our office to learn more about Cataracts or to make an appointment.