What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. The amount and pattern of cloudiness with the lens can vary.
What are some of the symptoms of cataract?
Cataract can cause painless blurring of vision, glare or light sensitivity, prescription changes in glasses, double vision in one eye, need for brighter light to read, poor night vision and fading or yellowing of colors.
What causes a cataract?
Cataract is a normal aging change of the eye. In addition, cataract can be caused by genetic disorders, medical problems such as diabetes, medications or injury to the eye.
How is a cataract detected?
A thorough eye examination by your ophthalmologist can detect the presence and extent of cataract, as well as any other conditions which may be causing blurred vision.
How is a cataract treated?
In the early stages of cataract development vision may be improved simply by a change in glasses prescription. In time as the cataract increases, blurred vision and other symptoms will not be relieved by glasses; therefore, surgery will become necessary to restore useful vision.
When should surgery be performed?
For the most part, the results of cataract surgery are the same whenever it is performed. Hence, the patient can decide if and when to have surgery based on how the cataract affects his or her lifestyle. Cataract surgery should be considered when the cataract causes enough loss of vision to interfere with daily activities which are important to the patient. This may be reading, driving or recreational activities such as golf or tennis.
Occasionally cataract surgery will be necessary to evaluate and treat other eye conditions, such as diabetic or age-related changes in the retina. Your ophthalmologist can help you with the decision about surgery under these circumstances.
How is cataract surgery performed?
Cataract surgery is performed on an outpatient basis with local anesthesia. The patient is awake but does not feel the procedure. The procedure usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to perform, but there is additional preoperative and postoperative time. During the surgery the clouded natural lens of the eye typically is broken up and suctioned from the eye by a process called phacoemulsification. The clouded lens is then replaced with an intraocular lens implant in order to restore vision.
How successful is cataract surgery with lens implantation?
If the rest of the eye is healthy, the chance of obtaining a significant improvement in vision is approximately 95%. The chance of making vision worse is remote, in the range of 1%.
How fast is the recovery from cataract surgery?
Most patients will have good vision in the operated eye the day after surgery. Strenuous activity such as heavy lifting or activities which might lead to risk of a blow to the eye should be avoided for several weeks. On the other hand, normal non-strenuous activities including bending, lifting, reading and driving can be resumed the day after surgery.
Is it necessary to wear eye glasses or contact lenses after cataract surgery with an intraocular lens?
Various types and strengths of intraocular lenses are available leading to options for the patient to choose. It may be possible to see well without eye glasses or contact lenses after cataract surgery, but it is also necessary to balance the vision between the eyes and there may be issues such as astigmatism which limit the ability to avoid glasses completely. The patient and the surgeon should discuss these issues prior to surgery.