What is a cataract?
With few exceptions, most of us are born with a clear lens in each eye. This lens functions to focus light onto the retina —the layer of light-sensing cells lining the back of the eye. This allows us to have clear vision.
A cataract is a clouding of this naturally clear lens. When the lens becomes cloudy, light rays can no longer pass through the lens easily, and vision is blurred.
Cataract development is a normal process of aging, but cataracts can also develop from eye injuries, certain diseases, or medications. Your genes may also play a role in cataract development.
How can a cataract be treated?
A cataract may not need to be treated. In fact, almost everyone will develop cataracts if they live long enough. Simply having a cataract is not a reason for surgery if your vision is only slightly blurry. In some cases, changing your eyeglass prescription may help to improve your vision for a while.
However, when cataracts start to interfere with your daily life, cataract surgery should be considered. There are no medications, eye drops, exercises or glasses that will cause cataracts to disappear or to prevent them from forming. Surgery is the only way to improve the blurry vision that is caused by cataracts.
Our doctors can determine if cataract surgery is likely to help you or your loved one by performing a thorough eye examination in our office.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Symptoms of cataracts are variable but can include any of the following:
- Sensitivity to light and glare, especially while driving at night
- Blurred vision
- Distorted images in either eye
- Changes in the way you see colors, or colors seem faded
- Cloudy, filmy or fuzzy vision
- Double vision
- Frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription
- Changes in the color of the pupil
- Poor night vision
- Increased nearsightedness or farsightedness
What is done during cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. This means that cataract patients do not need to visit a hospital or stay overnight to receive care.
Typically, only mild sedation is needed for the procedure. Topical anesthetic eye drops are used to numb the eye.
During the surgery, using an operating microscope, the doctor will make a small incision in the eye, usually around 3 millimeters long. Precise surgical instruments are then used to break apart and remove the cloudy lens from the eye.
In most cases, the natural lens is then replaced with a permanent intraocular lens (IOL) implant. This IOL is clear and is intended to stay in the eye forever.
Cataract surgery typically does not require stitches. This small incision, no-stitch technique has drastically reduced the recovery time for modern cataract surgery. Most patients have very few limitations after their surgery and can return to normal activity within days.
Will I have to wear glasses after my cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery has improved the vision of thousands of our patients. In many instances, our patients can perform daily tasks with minimal use of (or even complete independence from) glasses or contacts post-surgery. In other instances, however, glasses or contact lenses may still be needed after cataract surgery, even if they were not needed prior to surgery.
If you are interested in reducing your dependence on glasses and contact lenses during cataract surgery, please discuss this option with your doctor.
Is cataract surgery successful?
The success rate of cataract surgery is very high. Improved vision is achieved in the vast majority of patients.
There are certain cases in which even successful cataract surgery does not improve vision as much as we would like. This is usually due to other eye problems such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy. Even with these problems, cataract surgery may still be worthwhile.
Your doctor will counsel you on your chances of improving vision with cataract surgery.
Are there risks with cataract surgery?
There are risks with any surgery, including cataract surgery. Fortunately, serious complications are rare. If cataract surgery is recommended, your doctor will discuss potential risks, benefits, and alternatives with you during your visit.
Visit Harbin Clinic Eye Care for more information.