A cataract is a condition where the lens of the eye (the clear membrane through which light passes) becomes clouded. Such clouding prevents a sharp and clear image from being received by the retina. As a result, your vision becomes blurred. Most cataracts are related to ageing. In fact, in the USA more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. While a cataract can occur in either or both eyes, it cannot spread from one eye to the other.
Apart from ageing, other factors can lead to cataracts: suffering from certain diseases such as diabetes; smoking or drinking alcohol to excess, and having prolonged exposure to sunlight without UV protection.
This is a critical cataract treatment question. If your vision is slowly becoming worse - where at first you see with only slight imperfections but after a while it seems that a net curtain is covering everything - the chances are that you have a cataract. Other symptoms are having cloudy or blurred vision and not seeing sharp colours any more. It becomes harder to see at night and bright light (like sunlight) may become too intense. Headlights will look like they have a halo around them. You may start to have double vision or see multiple images. You may find yourself constantly upgrading your glasses or contact lenses.
To resolve your treatment questions about cataracts, your ophthalmologist will conduct a comprehensive eye exam that includes three elements. The visual acuity test is an eye chart test that measures how well you see at various distances. Another step is tonometry, where an instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. The dilated eye exam involves placing drops in your eyes to dilate or widen the pupils. This allows the ophthalmologist to examine your retina and optic nerve closely with a microscope for signs of damage and other eye problems.
If you suffer from early cataracts, you can improve your vision with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. However if you have reached the point where the loss of proper vision prevents you from driving, reading or watching TV, then cataract treatment options point to surgery as the only solution.
The removal of cataracts through surgery is one of the most common, safe and effective operations performed in developed countries. In more than 95% of cases, people who have cataract surgery have better vision afterward.
At a convenient time before surgery, your ophthalmologist will arrange for Biometry (this involves measurements of the curve of the cornea and the length of your eye). This is to determine the right type of IOL for you. An IOL (intraocular lens or implant) is a clear plastic lens that replaces the natural lens and requires no care. It becomes a permanent part of your eye and you will not feel or see it. Very rarely, some, patients cannot have an IOL at the time of surgery due to an eye complication. It is usually possible to insert an implant at a later date.
The operation to remove the cataract and replace it with an artificial lens usually lasts less than half an hour and is almost painless. Anesthetic drops numb the nerves in and around the eye. After the operation you will wear a clear shield on the way home and at night for a few days. Generally you can go home within an hour or so, but somebody else will need to drive.
Healing usually takes a few weeks. During the first week after surgery you will probably have some itching and mild discomfort, as well as some watery discharge from the eye. Using eyedrops will help healing and decrease the risk of infection. By the second week, the eye will have settled down. You should avoid doing any strenuous work or contact sports.
Any surgery poses risks of infection and bleeding. It is very important to take all recommended hygiene precautions, because serious infection can result in loss of vision. You have a slightly higher risk of retinal detachment after cataract surgery, and this condition is also accelerated by high myopia (nearsightedness). Not everyone can have successful cataract surgery. This is why you need to place the subject of cataract surgery in the hands of highly skilled specialists to minimize the risks and who are experienced enough to deal with any complications.
The answer to this vital question about cataracts shows what remarkable technological advances have been made in recent years. In most cases, after a healing time of a few weeks, your eye should have good vision, enough for all normal pursuits such as driving. You will probably notice, with an IOL, that colours look very bright. This is because the new lens is clear whereas your natural lens had a yellow or brown tint. If you have decided to have a Multi-Focal Lens implanted in your eye, you will not need to wear glasses.
In any exposure to the sun, you should wear UV-blocking sunglasses or at least a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight. You should stop smoking. Having healthy nutrition can also ward off the risk of cataracts. Eat green leafy vegetables, fruit, and other foods that are rich in antioxidants. After the age of 60, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In many cases, early treatment can check the progress of many eye diseases. See page for links about Cataracts