What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a cloudiness in the natural lens of the eye. Normally, the path of light to the retina (where the light sensors are) is as clear as possible. A cataract is the result of proteins that clump together, and then block the path of the light. This makes vision blurry or hazy. A cataract can cause blurry vision at all distances, and can cause glare and distortion of colors. This often creates risks while driving, makes reading difficult, and negatively impacts day to day activities. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide and represent a critical cause of visual impairment in the United States.
Signs of a Cataract 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
- Recurring changes in prescriptions for contact lenses or eyeglasses
- Dull or fading colors
Patients may report experiencing improved near vision when they are in the beginning stages of a cataract. However, this effect goes away as the disease progresses. With an early stage cataract, you may find some relief with a new contact lens or glasses prescription. Once the cataract progresses, however, surgery is often the best option.
Who Gets Cataracts?
Cataracts typically occur over the age of 40, and are most frequent over 60. Cataracts affect more than 24.4 million Americans over 40 and by the age of 75, approximately half of all Americans have cataracts. However, there are many other factors such as family history, diabetes, long term UV exposure, or certain medications like steroids that can contribute to the development of cataracts. Eye injuries can also cause cataracts.
Can Cataracts Be Prevented?
The development of cataracts is typically related to aging and genetics. Factors that may increase the likelihood of a cataract include sunlight exposure, smoking, poor nutrition, eye trauma, systemic diseases, and certain medications such as steroids. Using UV eye protection in the sun and eating a nutritious diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, selenium, and vitamins C and E can benefit eye health. However, once cataracts have developed, surgery is the only effective treatment. It is very important to have yearly comprehensive eye exams with an ophthalmologist for early diagnosis of cataracts and other eye conditions, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.
How is a Cataract Diagnosed?
A cataract can only be diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam. We recommend yearly exams with an experienced eye doctor who will use a variety of advanced tools and tests to evaluate your eye health and vision. Tests may include corneal topography, optical coherence tomography (OCT), a visual acuity test, or a slit lamp (microscopic) evaluation. Cataracts can progress differently among individual patients, but they typically worsen with age.
How Do I Know if I Need Cataract Surgery?
If you have been diagnosed with a cataract, it is important to talk to your eye doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you. The decision of when to have cataract surgery will depend on the degree of visual impairment and lifestyle impact. Keep your optometrist or ophthalmologist informed about any changes in your vision or symptoms.
Advanced technology makes it possible to safely remove cataracts at an earlier stage than in the past. Small incision cataract surgery and Intraocular Lens Implants contribute to the possibility of early intervention with more favorable outcomes. Remember that cataracts do not improve on their own, so if you are experiencing trouble with driving or other daily activities, then it may be time to discuss cataract surgery with your ophthalmologist. The team at Fisher Eye & Laser Center will work with you to develop a treatment plan that works for you.
What Can I Expect From Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States, and it is generally considered to be a well-recognized and effective procedure. While any surgery carries some risk, cataract surgery has an extremely low rate of complications and high success rates. Cataract surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure that typically takes 10-15 minutes to complete, and patients often return to regular activities in as little as 24-48 hours after surgery.
During the surgery, a topical anesthetic is used to numb the eye, and patients are offered an oral sedative such as valium to help them relax. The cataract surgeon removes the clouded natural lens and replaces it with an artificial, intraocular lens (IOL). The IOL permanently replaces the old lens. At Fisher Eye & Laser Center, we offer a variety of IOLs that can correct various refractive errors such astigmatism, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and presbyopia, helping patients greatly reduce the need for corrective eyewear after cataract surgery. Your ophthalmologist will discuss your options with you and choose the IOL that best fits your needs.
Cataract Treatment Options
Intraocular Lens Implant (IOL)
An IOL is a specially designed artificial lens that is used to replace the natural lens and improve vision. The standard IOL is a monofocal lens that has one focusing distance. Monofocal lenses are typically set to correct for distance vision, so patients who also have near vision loss would continue to use reading glasses to see up close.
Advanced Intraocular Lens Implants (IOLs)
Advanced IOLs can correct for near distance, far distance, astigmatism and presbyopia (reading vision), in addition to addressing cataracts. If you are interested in not only having your cataracts removed, but you would also like to greatly reduce your need for readers, contact lenses, or glasses after surgery, then you may want to consider an advanced IOL. Some types of IOLs available at Fisher Eye & Laser Center in Naples, FL include the Crystalens IOL, Tecnis IOLs, and Symfony IOLs.
ORA (Optiwave Refractive Analysis)
The ORA System is a state-of-the-art device that provides real time measurements of the patient’s eye during cataract surgery. This innovative technology allows the cataract surgeon to fully customize and closely monitor the surgery, helping more precisely dial in the best lens power and placement to provide the best outcome possible.
Recovery From Cataract Surgery
Patients return home the same day as their cataract surgery. After the procedure, an eye shield will be placed over the eye and you will be given prescription eye drops and post-operative instructions. Some things to know about recovery from cataract surgery:
- You will need to arrange for a family member or friend to drive you home.
- You should plan to rest and avoid strenuous activity for a few days.
- Patients typically experience little to no pain during surgery, but some minor irritation or discomfort while the eye heals is normal.
- Your surgeon will prescribe eye drops to facilitate with the healing process.
- It is important to follow all instructions and eye drop indications.
Several follow-up appointments will be scheduled in order to ensure proper healing and results. Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns during your recovery period.