A cataract is an opacity that clouds the natural lens inside the eye. Normally the path of light to the retina (where the light sensors are) is as clear as possible. When proteins that make up the lens clump together, the resulting cataract blocks some of the light, making vision blurry or hazy.
Cataracts typically occur more frequently in the aging population, however there are many other factors such as family history, diabetes, long term UV exposure, or certain medications like steroids that can cause cataracts. Also, previous eye injuries can be an attributing factor.
Cataract symptoms may include:
- Blurry vision
- Lights seem too bright or have a “halo” effect
- Double vision in one eye
- Decreased night vision – sensitivity to glare from headlights
- Dull or fading colors
Some people actually experience an improvement in their near vision during the beginning stages of a cataract. Unfortunately, this effect goes away as the disease progresses. Early on, a cataract may be treated with increased glasses or contact prescription. Once the cataract begins to interfere with daily tasks such as reading and driving, surgery is the only remaining option.
Cataract surgery is a very common procedure, and complications (if any) are rare and treatable. The surgery itself is highly successful in improving the vision of patients about 95% of the time. Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure usually taking less than 30 minutes to complete.
During the surgery, the doctor removes the cloudy natural lens from the eye while the patient is under a topical anesthesia. Next, the doctor inserts an intraocular lens (IOL), which remains permanently in place of the removed natural lens. The IOL compensates for the magnification the old lens provided. Modern IOLs are designed for various functions and made out of different materials; your doctor will know which is most appropriate for your individual case. After the operation the doctor will apply a shield for the eye and provide you with eye drops to use as directed.
Recovery from Cataract Surgery
The patient may return home the day of the procedure. With proper rest and avoidance of any strenuous activities such as heavy lifting, recovery is usually a matter of days, with only minor discomfort. Several follow up appointments will be required to ensure the eye is healing properly and initial results are sustained.