Cataracts are very common and symptoms can be pretty noticeable. But even though symptoms are well-known, patients may not attribute them to cataracts right away. Because of this symptoms gradually increase in severity and can start to interfere with a patient’s independence. Meaning, they won’t be able to experience all of life’s moments clearly. Watch the cataract story below, and if you can relate, it’s time to schedule an appointment.
In youth, the human lens is clear like a window. As one ages, the lens’ proteins change and the lens turns either a whitish-gray or yellow-brown color. In a mature cataract, the pupil, which normally appears black, may even appear white or golden brown.
As a cataract progresses, you may notice a decrease in the clarity of your 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
Low Risk. High Reward
Cataract surgery is a safe and effective way to restore vision. It’s usually done on an outpatient basis and only requires a short recovery period. The surgeon generally completes the procedure in less than 15 minutes, and complications occur in less than one in 100 cases. After cataract surgery, most patients can resume their normal activities the following day.
The surgery involves removing the patient’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 the eye. Read more about IOLs.
The most commonly used cataract surgery procedure today is termed “phaco,” or Phacoemulsification. “Phaco” reduces recovery time, as well as the risks involved with the larger incisions used in the older type of cataract surgery.
This surgery only involves a few steps:
- Preparation. The patient is given a mild sedative and the eye is cleansed. Drops are then placed to dilate the pupil and to numb the eye. Rarely, in severe cataract cases, a shot must be given behind the eye for full anesthesia.
- Removing the old lens. A small incision is made on the periphery of the cornea (the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye). The surgeon inserts a tiny probe, which emits ultrasound waves that soften and break up the lens. Then the little pieces of lens are removed by suction.
- Inserting the new lens. The surgeon uses an injector to place the IOL inside the eye. The lens unfolds inside the remaining capsular bag and is held in place by two small springs, called “haptics.”
- Antibiotics are applied. To reduce the chance of infection and post-operative inflammation, long lasting antibiotics and steroids are placed inside the eye during surgery. For most of our patients, this eliminates the expense and the hassle of having to apply eye drops several times a day both before and after surgery.
- Recovery. The incision is so small that it seals itself, so stitches aren’t necessary. The patient can resume most normal activities the following day.
Any surgery has risks. One common complication is a secondary cataract, in which the back part of the eye capsule becomes hazy months or years after surgery. If this occurs, your doctor can treat the problem with a YAG laser in a quick outpatient procedure. Read more about the YAG procedure.