A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural focusing lens, which is located behind the iris of the eye. Cataracts are usually associated with the normal aging process and are the leading cause of vision loss among adults over 55. Eye injuries and certain medications and diseases can also cause cataracts.
When the lens of the eye is clear, it permits light to pass clearly to the retina at the back of the eye, producing clean, crisp images. As a cataract develops, however, two things happen. The cataract becomes denser and progressively clouds the lens, resulting in less light reaching the retina. Additionally, the light that does reach the retina is scattered and blurred, causing a gradual impairment of vision. Consequently, people with cataracts see images less crisply and vividly, and colors may be subdued. The condition can be compared to a window that is fogged over with steam.
How are cataracts treated?
Usually cataracts are treated with surgery. Cataract surgery has made great advancements in the last decade, which have not only made the procedure faster, but also shortened the length of recovery time and provided new lens implant options, such as toric intraocular lenses to correct astigmatism and multifocal intraocular lenses to give patients the ability to see far and near without the use of glasses.
Prior to the cataract procedure, we will take measurements of the patient’s eye. These measurements determine the power of the intraocular lens implant which is a critical step, since this determines the patient’s post-operative prescription. The type of intraocular lens placed in the eye is also important because different intraocular lenses have different features.
Not long ago, cataract surgery required a hospital stay. Today the surgery typically takes just ten minutes and is performed in the comfort of an outpatient surgery center. Patients leave the surgery center just a couple of hours after arrival. Before the procedure, an anesthetic gel is used to numb the eye. Through a small incision (about 2 mm) the cataract is emulsified using sound waves, with the resulting particles irrigated out of the eye (this process is called phacoemulsification.) Once the cataract is removed, an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted that focuses light properly for good uncorrected vision. At the end of the procedure the wound is tested. The vast majority are water tight, requiring no sutures, thus allowing the eye to heal more quickly. Recovery times are drastically reduced from those of years past, with most patients back to their daily routines within a day of their surgery.
Different Intracocular Lens Options
Traditionally, the only intraocular lenses available to cataract patients were “monofocal.” This type of lens corrects unaided vision at only one point, either distance or near, depending on the power of the implant. Most of the time, an implant power is selected to completely correct a patient’s distance vision so that after the operation, the patient will only need reading glasses.
As a result of technological advances, new “multifocal” lens implants are now available to correct a patient’s distance AND near vision, making the patient less dependent on reading glasses. Other lenses, such as toric lenses, can reduce or eliminate astigmatism. Prior to cataract surgery, the doctors and staff at the University Eye Center will discuss the various types of intraocular implants available so that an informed decision can be made regarding the appropriate type of intraocular lens for each patient. We are dedicated to helping patients find the best optical solution for their lifestyle and vision needs. In addition, prior to the procedure, we will discuss potential side effects of cataract surgery and important pre- and post-operative instructions, including required post-op appointments. We will also review the insurance plans accepted as well as alternative financing methods.
Cataract surgery is very popular extremely effective for improving vision. In fact, a study by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons recently reported that 98 percent of cataract patient had their vision successfully improved following surgery. Many patients report that their vision is even better than it was before they developed cataracts.
Scheduling an Appointment
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