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, the 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, radiation 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?

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, work activities, or recreational activities such as golf or tennis. Thus, the patient can decide if and when to have surgery based on how the cataract affects his or her lifestyle.

Occasionally cataract surgery will be necessary to evaluate and treat other eye conditions, such as diabetic or other retinal diseases. Your ophthalmologist can help you with the decision about surgery under these circumstances. In some cases, patients with glaucoma might need earlier cataract surgery.

How is cataract surgery performed?

Cataract surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, usually with local anesthesia. The patient is awake but does not feel the procedure. Medications are frequently given by anesthesia staff to help the patient feel relaxed and comfortable. 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.

In some situations, a laser procedure will be done in conjunction with the surgical procedure to correct astigmatism and perform elements of the surgery with computer-guided precision.

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 start to notice improved vision in the operated eye the day after surgery. The full healing time, however, is approximately four weeks. Strenuous activity such as heavy lifting, swimming or activities which might lead to risk of a blow to the eye should be avoided for several weeks. On the other hand, most normal non-strenuous activities including bending, lifting, reading and driving can be resumed on the day after surgery. Individual factors, such as the severity of the cataract other pre-existing conditions affecting the eye may result in a slower recovery.

Is it necessary to wear eye glasses or contact lenses after cataract surgery with an intraocular lens?

It may be possible to see well without eye glasses or contact lenses after cataract surgery, but it is also necessary to correct vision at multiple distances, balance the vision between the eyes and there may be issues such as astigmatism; all of which may limit the ability to avoid glasses completely. Various types and strengths of intraocular lenses are available leading to options for the patient to choose. The patient and the surgeon should discuss these issues prior to surgery.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 3/10/2015…#14121