What is a Cataract?
Having cataracts can be like looking through a frosty or fogged up window, making daily activities difficult. It is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens, a transparent structure in the eye that helps refract light on the back of the retina. The lens are made of protein and water, but when the proteins clump together, a cataract is formed. Most cataracts develop in people over the age of 55.
There are many causes for cataracts, although aging is the most common. According to the National Eye Institute, by the age of 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Cataracts can also be the results of genetics, environmental issues, medical conditions such as diabetes, or poor nutrition and excessive sun exposure.
Most cataracts develop slowly over the course of years. When the clouding from the cataract becomes more and more opaque, the patient’s vision is obstructed. In the past, patients used to wait until their vision was severely impaired before having cataract surgery. Today, patients are addressing their conditions earlier and correcting their vision at the same time. People are simply more active and do not want to give up their favorite activities.
The time-honored cataract procedure is to use microsurgical instruments to go in and take out the dysfunctional lens, and replace it with a clear one. The clear lens will not change any other vision problems.
New generations of implantable, intraocular lenses (IOL) have vision correction built in. Lifestyle lenses, for example, can be used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism as part of the cataract surgery process to reduce dependence on eyeglasses.
While lifestyle lenses, or multifocal IOLs, are an option for patients who seek maximum reduction of dependence on eyeglasses, there are long-term after effects. This includes halos around headlights at night for 6-12 months, and difficulty reading in dim light.
Laser assistance also has reduced the time the surgery takes inside the eye. Eye drops numb the eyes, so there is no need for needles and patients undergo a twilight anesthesia, where the patient is not unconscious, but sedated. It is precise and exact, significantly less inflammation in the eye, and recovery is quicker as well.