A cataract is a cloudiness of the normally transparent eye lens. It can cause a decrease in vision and may lead to eventual blindness.
Cataracts are a common vision problem, especially as we age. They are the leading cause of vision loss among people over 55, and they affect one in six Americans older than age 40. More than one-half of all Americans will have cataracts by age 70.
Warning Signs & Symptoms
As a cataract progresses, you may notice a decrease in your clarity of vision that glasses cannot fully correct. You may also experience:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Difficulty seeing at night, especially while driving
- Sensitivity to bright lights
- A “halo” effect around lights
- Faded or yellowed colors
- Double vision in the affected eye
- A need to change your glasses or contact prescription frequently
Cataract surgery is a low-risk treatment that effectively restores vision. The surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis, it generally takes less than fifteen minutes and serious complications are rare. The recovery period is relatively short, and you can resume most of your normal activities the following day.
Cataract surgery involves removing the eye’s cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens called an IOL, or intraocular lens. An IOL is a clear, plastic lens that requires no care and becomes a permanent part of your eye. Click IOLs to read more about IOLs, or click Cataract Surgery for more details on the surgery.
We utilize “phaco,” or Phacoemulsification, which is the most commonly used cataract surgery procedure today. Phaco makes recovery time shorter and reduces the risks involved with larger incisions. It involves only a few steps:
- A small incision is made on the side of the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye.
- The surgeon inserts a tiny probe into the eye.
- The phacodevice emits ultrasound waves that soften and break up the lens so that it can be removed by gentle suction.
- The surgeon then inserts the new lens and aligns it correctly.
The incision is so small that it seals itself, so stitches aren’t necessary.
Cataracts develop as you age, but there are some steps you can take to slow their development:
- Wear sunglasses. Ultraviolet B rays from the sun may contribute to cataract development, so always use eye protection.
- Quit smoking. Ask your doctor about medications or other strategies that can help you quit.
- Don’t ignore health problems. If you have diabetes or other medical conditions, that can increase your risk of cataracts. Adhere to the treatment plan your doctor suggests.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your likelihood of developing cataracts, so reduce your calorie intake and increase your exercise level if you fall into either category.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. These types of food provide vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, which could prevent damage to your eyes' lenses. Study results are not yet conclusive, but fruits and vegetables have proven health benefits.
After surgery, a shield will be placed over the eye. Our medical team will monitor for any problems, and most patients are discharged within half an hour, though they will need a designated driver to take them home.
Post-surgery recovery time is relatively short. Most people take it easy the day of surgery and resume normal activities the next day. Your doctor will provide detailed instructions for eye care after the surgery.