What is a cataract?

A cataract is an inevitable natural clouding of the lens and resultant change in best corrected visual acuity.  Most cataracts are related to normal aging.  However there are some other causes of cataracts.  Systemic diseases like Diabetes Mellitus and Uveitis can lead to premature cataract formation.  Exposure to steroids, intrauterine insults, genetic disorders, and trauma can also lead to premature cataract formation.

What is the natural lens?

The natural lens is a clear avascular part of the eye.  It’s soul job is to focus light and images on the retina.  As a cataract develops the lens can no longer clearly focus images on the retina.

What causes cataracts?

Researchers believe that cataract formation is multifactorial.  Some contributors are UV damage to the natural arrangement of proteins in the lens, protein imbalances from variations in blood sugar levels and normal aging changes.

When are you most likely to have a cataract?

Cataracts are often referred to as an old person problem.  This in fact is very misleading. Most people already start developing cataracts in there 40-50’s fortunately they rarely effect vision for some time.  As I like to tell my patients everyone develops cataracts between the age of 50 and 150 what we don’t know is when it will effect your vision and life style.

Can I do anything to protect my vision?

Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight may help delay the development of cataracts.  Smoking cessation may also help slow the progression of cataract formation. Researchers also believe that eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants may also slow the progression of cataract formation.

What are the symptoms of a cataract?

The most common symptoms of a cataract include, blurry vision, glare and halos exacerbated by bright lights, reduced color perception, double vision, and frequent eyeglass prescription changes.

How is a cataract treated?

At first the symptoms of early cataracts may be improved with new eyeglass prescription, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or a magnifying lenses. However these things only buy time the only definitive way to treat cataracts is with cataract surgery.  However a cataract typically only needs to be removed when it interferes with your everyday activities.  It is quite rare that a delay in surgery will lead to long-term damage to your eye or make the surgery more difficult.

How is cataract surgery performed?

Modern cataract surgery no longer requires stiches, larger incisions, or extensive blood loss. The surgery is typically down with mild sedation in an outpatient setting and lasts less than 45 minutes. Typically a small self sealing incision is made in the clear cornea to allow access to the natural lens.  The lens is then removed with an ultrasound hand-piece. After the natural lens is removed a new clear artificial lens is placed into the same position allowing images to focus on the retina.  There are situations though when modern cataract surgery can not be performed or an artificial lens can not be safely placed in the eye. For these patients, a soft contact lens, or glasses that provide high magnification, may be needed to attain better vision after cataract surgery.

Are there risks to cataract surgery?

As with any invasive procedure cataract surgery poses some risks.  The most common ones are bleeding, infection, inflammation, and a small increased risk of retinal detachment.

Is cataract surgery effective?

Cataract surgery is one of the most common, safest and effective surgeries performed in the United States.  About 90 percent of patients experience better vision after surgery.

What is the recovery from cataract surgery like?

After surgery the operative eye is usually patched.  Your doctor will remove the patch the next morning.  At that time you will start a eye drop regimen that will usually last 30 days.  After surgery you will be advised to avoid heavy lifting and exercise for about a week.  Your doctor will likely see you one week and one month after surgery.

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