What is a cataract?
The term “cataract” refers to the eye’s lens becoming clouded as a normal part of the aging process. It is sometimes compared to a window that is frosted, steamed, or yellowed. In most cases, cataracts develop slowly over a number of years. However, conditions such as diabetes and trauma may cause cataract symptoms to develop early.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Blurred vision is the most frequently noted cataract symptom. Many patients first notice blurred vision during activities such as reading and driving, particularly night driving. It is also common for cataract patients to experience a generalized haze and difficulty with color perception. Halos and glare around lights such as headlights, or streetlights are also very common.
Our doctors will work with you to help you decide when cataract surgery is needed. Generally, you will want to consider surgery when your cataracts have progressed enough to seriously impair your vision and affect your daily life. Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision, and cataract surgery recovery is a fairly simple process.
What causes cataracts?
Aging is the most common cause. This is due to normal eye changes that happen starting around age 40. At that time, normal proteins in the lens start to break down. As a result, the lens begins to get cloudy. People over age 60 usually start to have some clouding of their lenses. However, vision problems may not happen until years later.
Other reasons you may get cataracts include:
- Having parents, brothers, sisters, or other family members who have cataracts.
- Having certain medical problems, such as diabetes, or if you are a smoker.
- Having had an eye injury, eye surgery, or radiation treatments on your upper body.
- Having spent a lot of time in the sun, especially without sunglasses that protect your eyes from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Using certain medications such as corticosteroids, which may cause early formation of cataracts.
Most age-related cataracts develop gradually. Other cataracts can develop more quickly, such as those in younger people, or those in people with diabetes. Doctors cannot predict how quickly a person’s cataract will develop.
How are cataracts diagnosed?
Your ophthalmologist will examine and test your eyes to make a cataract diagnosis. This comprehensive eye exam will include dilation. Dilation refers to the process by which your pupils are widened by using specific drops designed to cause that effect.
Your ophthalmologist will examine your cornea, iris, lens, and the other areas at the front of the eye. The special slit-lamp microscope makes it easier to spot abnormalities.
When your eye is dilated, the pupil is wide open so the doctor can more clearly see the back of the eye. Using the slit lamp, an ophthalmoscope, or both, the doctor looks for signs of cataract. Your ophthalmologist will also look for glaucoma, and examine the retina and optic nerve.
Refraction and visual acuity test
This test assesses the sharpness and clarity of your vision. Each eye is tested individually for the ability to see letters of varying sizes.
Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology
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Treatment Options for Cataracts
Cataract Eye Surgery
A cataract occurs when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy. The normal lens is clear and helps focus light on the retina in the back of the eye. As a cataract develops, it blocks and scatters light, reducing the quality of vision.
In cataract surgery, the cloudy natural lens of the eye is removed. In almost all cases, the cataract is replaced with a clear artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL), which is placed permanently inside the eye at the time the cataract is removed. IOLs are available in different powers and designs, and must be selected according to the needs of the eye and the desires of the patient. Cataract surgery will not correct other causes of decreased vision, such as glaucoma, diabetes, or age-related macular degeneration.
Cataract surgery is performed as outpatient surgery, usually under a local (eye drop) anesthetic. A general anesthetic (patient asleep) can be used. Whether local or general anesthetic is given, the patient will neither see the surgery being performed nor feel pain during the operation.
Though we cannot guarantee the results of cataract surgery, 95% of patients achieve excellent vision. They can drive a car, read, sew, and do all of the things they enjoyed prior to developing their cataract. Approximately 2% of patients will experience a complication or poor vision after surgery.
In many cases, full vision is not achieved until new glasses are ordered and received, usually about 2-4 weeks after the surgery. Glasses may be similar to what was worn prior to surgery; additionally, sunglasses are recommended on bright, sunny days.
Selecting Your Intraocular Lens Implant (IOLs)
Exciting advancements in intraocular lens implant choices are now available to our cataract patients, offering you your best possible visual result. Illinois Eye Center uses the latest technology for each patient’s assessment in order to provide the most precise data possible and to help determine the best implant for your needs, lifestyle, and personality.
Types of Intraocular Lens Implants
When you have cataract surgery, you receive an intraocular lens implant (IOL) at the time of your operation. There are several different types of intraocular lenses available, from the basic Monofocal lens implant to the more sophisticated Advanced Technology lens implants, also known as Multifocal lens implants. In general, the more you want to be less dependent on glasses after the operation, the more you may want to consider one of the Advanced Technology lenses.
A Monofocal Lens Implant is designed to deliver good distance vision without glasses. Glasses are generally needed for intermediate and near vision after cataract surgery.
Presbyopia is a condition that most people over the age of 40 experience which results in difficulty seeing up close without the aid of bifocals, trifocals or reading glasses. Advanced Technology Intraocular lens implants, also referred to as Multifocal or Accommodative IOLs, are designed to provide a full range of vision offering the possibility of seeing well at more than one distance and with less dependence on glasses after cataract surgery.
Astigmatism is a common condition that can make your vision distorted. If you have been diagnosed with astigmatism, the Toric Lens Implant makes it possible to treat the cataract and correct the astigmatism at the same time.
Each of these lenses use a slightly different design to help you achieve your goal of clear vision and each have advantages and disadvantages. Which one is best for you depends on the unique characteristics of your eye as well as your lifestyle needs. Our doctors will measure and examine your eyes and discuss your lifestyle and vision needs to determine which lens is more advantageous for you.
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