When considering cataract eye surgery and lens replacement, it is important to have a good understanding of cataracts and the procedure to treat them.
A cataract is the painless clouding of the eye’s natural crystalline lens. This lens is the clear part of the eye that helps focus incoming light rays on the retina to form an image. This lens is primarily made of water and protein, allowing the structure to change shape to focus on near and distant objects. Since a cataract affects the clarity of the lens, it prohibits the light from passing through the lens easily. This clouding causes the retina to receive blurred or distorted images, gradually impairing vision. As cataracts progress, eye surgery should be considered as untreated cataracts can lead to blindness. Currently there are several correlated causes of cataracts, including diabetes and smoking, but most cataracts are brought on by aging. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 55. In fact, by the age of 80, more than half of all Americans will either have a cataract or will have had a cataract eye surgery.
To correct vision impairment caused by cataracts, the damaged lens is replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL) during surgery. It is important to complete a comparison of IOL (intraocular lens) choices and to discuss your findings with an ophthalmologist after a thorough eye exam.
What are Cataract Symptoms?
Although the most common cause of cataracts stems from the aging process, others may develop a cataract and need eye surgery. People at risk for cataracts include adults over 55, people with diabetes, anyone who has suffered an eye injury, people with a family history of cataracts, smokers, heavy drinkers and steroid users. Those at risk should see their eye doctor to discuss screening for cataracts, especially if they develop any of the following symptoms:
- Blurred of Cloud Vision (Like looking through clouded glass)
- Temporary Improved Nearsightedness (Reading may improve as lens changes shape)
- Increased Sensitivity to Light and Glare (Halos around lights)
- Poor Night Vision
- Seeing Distorted Images
- Changed Perception of Colors
- Double Vision
- Frequent Changes to Vision Prescription
- Changes in Eye Pupil Color
If any of the above symptoms are present they may indicate a need for cataract screening and treatment. It’s important to contact your ophthalmologist if you’re showing any of these symptoms as they can be a sign of other serious vision problems. As cataracts continue to mature over time, it’s important to regularly visit your doctor and monitor any symptoms you may be experiencing.
What are the Benefits of Cataract Eye Surgery?
With recent advances in cataract eye surgery, patients no longer have to wait until a cataract reaches a specific point of progression before removal. Cloudy or blurred vision can now be corrected at a much earlier stage.
Modern cataract procedures have a high success rate. In most instances, patients with otherwise healthy eyes have improved vision after the lens replacement procedure. Many patients’ vision improves so dramatically after surgery that they are able to pass vision tests for driver's licenses again. Additionally after a cataract is removed, patients tend to have a decreased dependence on corrective eyewear and are able once again to see colors vividly.
How is Cataract Eye Surgery Performed?
The most common type of cataract procedure performed in the U.S. today is an outpatient procedure using a process called phacoemulsification. During this surgery, the surgeon makes a tiny incision and uses high-speed ultrasound waves to break the cataract into tiny pieces that are then removed.
After the lens is removed the surgeon will then replace the lens with a clear intraocular lens (IOL) implant. IOLs are designed to perform most of the functions of the natural lens. They are made of special biocompatible materials that require no care. Cataract lens replacement options vary in material type and strength, as do glasses or contact lenses, and are selected to improve the eye’s focusing ability.
Discuss Your Cataract Eye Surgery Options with an Ophthalmologist
It is important to schedule an eye exam with an ophthalmologist if you believe your sight is being affected by cataracts or another vision problem. When you have your initial vision screening, you can discuss the lens replacement options for your cataract eye surgery.