What are cataracts?
Cataracts are the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. (See the illustration on the left.) The lens normally focuses images on the retina. When the clouding occurs in the lens, blurred vision is the result. Some people describe their vision as if they are looking through waxed paper or a waterfall. (In fact, the word cataract in Greek means “waterfall.”) Other symptoms include glare and halos around lights, starburst with oncoming headlights, or the inability to distinguish images at near or distance with normal lighting.
Who Gets Cataracts?
Cataracts usually form in the elderly. However, theycan be formed at birth by a genetic disorder or from an injury or disease. Long-term use of steroids can also cause cataracts.
How Are Cataracts Treated?
The clouded lens is removed in a surgical procedure and replaced with a cataract implant. It usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is commonly done on an outpatient basis. An intraocular lens (IOL) is placed in the eye to replace the eye’s natural lens. Usually, patients will go home the same day as their cataract surgery with a patch and a shield covering the eye. They will come back the next morning to see the doctor. The patient will wear the shield at night for another week and will be given some sunglasses to be worn as needed. A regimen of drops will be prescribed.
Cataract Surgery for Clearer Vision
When a cataract causes bothersome vision problems that interfere with your daily activities, your ophthalmologist may recommend surgery to remove the cataract. With cataract surgery, your eye’s cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens implant (called an intraocular lens or IOL).
You and your ophthalmologist can discuss the cataract surgery procedure, preparation for and recovery after surgery, benefits and possible complications of cataract surgery, cataract surgery costs and other important information. Together, you can decide if cataract surgery is appropriate for you.
Cataract Surgery Facts
- Surgery is usually performed when the cataract interferes with the patient’s daily life or when a new prescription for glasses will no longer improve your vision.
- As with any surgery, there are risks. This procedure is the most common eye surgery performed and is extremely successful in most cases. Your doctor will explain the various risks.
- In general, the post-surgery limitations are light. No bending, lifting or straining is usually recommended for one week. Your doctor will discuss further limitations that specifically apply to you.
You can learn more about cataracts and lens implants by visiting the American Academy of Ophthalmology website.
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