Cataracts affect millions of people each year, including more than half of all Americans age 60 and older. A cataract is the clouding of the eye's natural lens. Cloudiness develops as a result of a buildup of protein in the lens. Cataracts can occur in either one eye or both eyes. If left untreated, cataracts will worsen over time and may lead to permanent vision loss or even blindness.
Causes of Cataracts
The lens within the eye clouds naturally as we age, causing a gradual reduction of vision. There are numerous other causes of cataracts, including:
- Alcohol use
- Family history of cataracts
- Exposure to radiation
- A result of eye surgery
- Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light
Diagnosis of Cataracts
A series of tests are performed in order to diagnose a cataract. Some of these tests may include:
- A dilated eye exam
- Visual acuity test
Symptoms of Cataracts
Patients with cataracts often do not experience any symptoms when the condition first develops. Cataracts will continue to progress with no apparent pain, although patients may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Blurry or hazy vision
- Colors that appear to be faded
- Poor vision in bright light
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions
- Seeing halos around lights
- Poor night time vision
- Yellowish tinged vision
- Double vision
Treatment of Cataracts
Early cataracts can sometimes be treated with non-surgical methods such as a New eyeglass prescription, Anti-glare sunglasses, Magnifying lenses, or Installing lighting that is brighter.
If the cataracts begin to interfere with reading ability, work or other daily activities, cataract surgery may be recommended. If cataracts are in both eyes, surgery will be performed on one eye at a time, usually 1-2 weeks apart. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the United States.
Preventions of Cataracts
While you cannot prevent cataracts from developing, you can certainly delay their formation by taking some preventative measures such as:
- Wearing a wide brimmed hat to block ultraviolet sunlight when outdoors
- Wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet sunlight
- Quitting smoking
- Eating green leafy vegetables, fruits and foods high in antioxidants
Cataract surgery is a procedure performed to improve vision by replacing the lens of an eye clouded by a cataract. Cataracts affect millions of people in the United States each year. Most cataracts are the result of aging, though some form as a result of genetic factors or because of disease or injury.
Candidates For Cataract Surgery
Commonly, the development of cataracts through aging is a gradual process. Patients may not notice early changes in vision and may only become aware of the condition when it is more advanced. Ophthalmologists, however, can detect cataracts by finding the lens opaque upon medical examination. Only medical professionals can rule out other causes for visual disturbance, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration. Patients who become aware of visual difficulties related to cataracts usually experience clouded, blurred or dim vision especially at night.
Benefits Of Cataract Surgery
The benefits of cataract surgery are many and have been proven to greatly enhance the quality of life. Patients who have successful cataract surgery may experience several advantages.
Improved Quality of Vision Patients
Patients experience improved vision after cataract surgery, reporting sharper images and brighter colors, They have less difficulty with many routine tasks, particularly night driving.
Decreased Dependency on Eyeglasses
Many people who have cataract surgery find that they no longer need to wear glasses or that their dependency on glasses is greatly reduced.
Greater Sense of Self-Confidence
Cataract surgery most often results in an increased sense of independence, regardless of the age of the patient. Marked improvements have been recorded even in patients with dementia or extreme hearing impairment.
Research indicates that the improved vision provided by cataract surgery reduces the possibility of falls, making exercise, sports and hobbies more possible. This results in improved physical health, sociability and longer life expectancy.
Procedure Of Cataract Surgery
After the pupil is dilated and the area in and around the eye is numbed with anesthesia, a tiny incision is made to insert an ultrasonic probe. The probe emulsifies, or breaks up, the cloudy lens into tiny pieces which are suctioned out of the eye. Once the cloudy lens has been removed, a new artificial lens is implanted. The new lens, known as an intraocular lens or IOL, is often inserted through the original incision. Surgery usually takes only a few minutes to perform, is usually performed outpatient in the doctor's office and is relatively painless. A very high percentage of patients demonstrate improved vision after the procedure.
Risks Of Cataract Surgery
While cataract surgery is a common procedure and is considered quite safe, any surgery poses risks to the patient. In the case of cataract surgery, there is a slightly increased risk of retinal detachment, a painless but dangerous condition. Other risks of cataract surgery may include bleeding or infection.
Recovery From Cataract Surgery
After the operation, itching and mild discomfort after cataract surgery are normal and usually disappear within a few days.
The patient will use prescribed eye drops to assist in the healing process and to decrease the risk of infection. Patients should refrain from rubbing the eyes. In most cases, complete healing takes place within eight weeks.