Cataracts affect close to 22 million Americans 40 years of age and older. According to the National Eye Institute, most Americans will have cataracts by the age of 80. Although they are the number one cause of vision loss worldwide, there are many myths surrounding their cause and treatment.A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye. The lens focuses light rays onto the retina, which is the part of the eye that senses light and transmits these images to the brain. As a cataract develops, the lens changes from a clear structure to a cloudy yellow/brown. With this clouding effect, light rays passing through the lens are reduced and visual quality declines.A cataract cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or corneal refractive surgery like LASIK.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts form when protein builds up on the lens and makes it cloudy. As the eye’s lens grows older, its cells die and accumulate in the eye. Older lens cells are compacted into the center of the lens when new lens cells are formed on the outside. This build up is what causes the clouding of the lens and reduction of light passing through.A natural part of aging, cataracts are not preventable, but they are very treatable.Other causes of cataracts include eye injuries, diabetes, and certain medications.In the early stages, many people do not realize they are developing a cataract. They simply think they need better lighting or stronger eyeglasses or contacts. Initially, these measures can lessen the effects cataracts have on vision. However, sooner or later, cataract surgery will become necessary to restore vision.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Blurry or cloudy vision
Colors appear faded or yellow
Light sensitivy or glare
Poor night vision
Multiple or double images in one eye (this may resolve as a cataract grows)
Frequent changes in your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses
Please be aware that these symptoms can also indicate other eye problems. If you think you have any of the above symptoms, check with an eye care professional immediately.
Laser Cataract Surgery
Since the only way to remove a cataract is with surgery, cataract surgery is the most frequently performed procedure in the US. During the procedure, your natural lens that has become cloudy is removed and replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).Modern cataract surgery used by Sibia Eye Institute involves using a femtosecond laser to make small incisions instead of a scalpel/blade. The cataract is removed with an ultrasound probe used to break up the cataract so that it can be removed from the eye by aspiration (suction). A folding lens implant called an Intraocular Lens (IOL) is inserted. The IOL unfolds and takes the place of the natural lens.Laser cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure; learn more here: Bladeless Laser Surgery.
Preparing for Cataract Surgery
In your pre-op eye exam, your ophthalmologist will measure your eye to calibrate the proper focusing power of the IOL that will be replacing your natural lens. You will be asked about medications you are currently taking and possibly asked not to take some of them before surgery. You may also be prescribed eye drop medication to use before surgery in order to reduce swelling and prevent infection. You may be required to abstain from eating at least 6 hours prior to surgery.
Choosing an Intraocular Lens
There are a wide variety of Intraocular Lenses (IOL) available. The best IOL for you depends on your lifestyle and vision needs. Your cataract surgeon will discuss your options.
Toric IOLS correct astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness
Accommodating IOLs, unlike spherical IOLs that are designed to provide clear vision at a single focal point, accommodating IOLs expand the range of vision with aspheric design and haptics
Multifocal IOLs correct presbyopia with added magnification in different parts of the lens so that you can see clearly at all distances without glasses or contact lenses
Monovision is an alternative to multifocal and accommodating IOLs. There is no monovision IOL. Each eye is adjusted for separate distances, one for nearsightedness and one for farsightedness.
Cataract surgery recovery is usually short and uneventful. You will be prescribed eye drops for use after surgery. It is important that you follow your cataract surgeon’s instructions for using these drops. Try not to get soap or water directly in your eye and avoid rubbing or pressing on your eye. You may be given eyeglasses or a shield to wear to protect your eye. You will need to wear the shield while you sleep. Your ophthalmologist will let you know how active you can be post-surgery and when you can drive, exercise and do other activities.
Risks of Cataract Surgery
The new level of precision now available with bladeless cataract surgery can lessen the risks associated with traditional cataract surgery. However, it is important to keep in mind that all surgical procedures have some degree of risk. We will discuss with you the potential counter-indications, risks, and complications involved in laser cataract surgery so that you can explore all available options and make an informed decision about how your cataracts are removed.It is possible that your vision may become cloudy or blurry weeks, months or years after your cataract surgery. If you notice your vision becoming cloudy again, you might need to have a laser procedure called a posterior capsulotomy to help restore clear vision.
Cataract Surgery Costs
Cataract surgery is usually covered by Medicare or private insurance, if you meet the vision requirements. Contact your insurance provider if you have questions about your coverage, or provide us with a copy of your insurance card and we’ll check for you.