We all know that as we collect birthdays our body changes, for better or worse. Our eyes are no exception to this rule. One common eye condition that usually occurs later in our lives is the development of cataracts. What exactly is a cataract? A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil.
Any degree of loss of the normal transparency of the lens is called a cataract. The more cloudy the lens, the more advanced the degree of cataract. There are different types of cataracts – congenital and acquired – and within each group are subgroups. For the acquired cataracts the location and color of the clouding determines what type of cataract you have. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, you may have cataracts:
- Blurry or foggy vision
- Colors appear dull or washed out
- Poor night vision
- Halos appear around lights
- Sensitivity to sunlight or bright lights
- Needing more light to read
- Your glasses don’t seem to work
If you have a cataract, do not fret – you are not alone. Today, cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans age 40 and older. And as the U.S. population ages, more than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts by the year 2020, according to Prevent Blindness America (PBA). When early cataracts begin to appear, you may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses and appropriate lighting. However when your cataracts have progressed enough to seriously impair your vision and affect your daily life, it is time to think about surgery. Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision.
Thanks to innovative medical advances, cataract surgery is one of the safest and most successful procedures performed today. Cataract surgery is generally a common outpatient procedure, requiring only a few hours and a topical anesthetic. The goal of the operation is to break the old, cloudy lens into pieces, remove the pieces from the eye and insert a replacement lens to supplant the natural lens. Traditionally, the surgeon would accomplish these tasks by making a tiny incision in the eye using an instrument about the size of a pen tip. Now, patients also have the option of choosing a bladeless, computer-controlled laser to perform several of the most critical steps of cataract surgery. This laser option allows the surgeon to plan and perform surgery to accurate, individualized specifications not attainable with traditional surgical methods. It is considered the new evolution in cataract surgery.
Along with new methods for surgery, new plastic intraocular lenses (IOL) are being developed all the time to make the lenses more helpful to patients. IOLs come in many sizes, shapes, and materials. Each has unique characteristics and capabilities. Below are some IOL options:
- A monofocal lens will correct either nearsightedness or farsightedness, but will not correct astigmatism. This is the most basic of all the lens implants.
- A toric lens implant will help patients with cataracts and astigmatism. Both conditions will be corrected simultaneously.
- Multifocal, also known as presbyopia correcting IOLs, potentially help you see at all distances, not just one. Eighty percent of patients “never” need to wear glasses after these lenses are implanted.
There are many lens implant options and surgical techniques available today so consult with your doctor to determine which type of IOL and procedure is best for you. At Summit Eye Care we offer the most advanced technological options available for cataract surgery and we are happy to answer any questions you may have. Remember that cataracts are a souvenir of life, but having them is not something you have to live with.