Cataract is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. If not treated, cataracts can lead to blindness. The longer cataracts are left untreated, the more difficult it can be to successfully remove the cataract and restore vision making early detection and treatment of cataracts is critical to preserving sight.
More than 25 million Americans are affected by cataracts. Though cataracts are common, you may not know much about them. June is Cataract Awareness Month, so we’ve put together a list of seven things you should know about cataracts.
What are cataracts?
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens as your eye ages. Cataract is not a film that develops on the eye. This lens (located behind the iris — the colored part of the eye) works just like the lens of a camera — focusing light images on the retina which sends the images to your brain. The lense of the eye is made mostly of water and protein. With age, clumps of protein can develop on the lens; these clumps cause the cloudiness known as cataracts.
Who can get cataracts?
Though they are most often related to age, commonly affecting adults over age 40, there are other possible causes of cataracts including: genetics or birth defects, disease or medication and traumatic injury to the eye.
What are the signs and symptoms of cataracts?
Symptoms of cataracts vary based on severity of the cataracts. The smaller the cataract, the less it impedes vision, but the larger and denser the cataract, the more it will affect vision and more likely to require treatment. Common signs and symptoms of cataracts include:
• Difficulty seeing street signs, curbs and freeway exits
• Difficulty seeing traffic lights, or seeing a halo or glare around lights
• Difficulty focusing while watching TV or movies
• Difficulty seeing the faces clearly
• Difficulty writing and reading
• Difficulty playing games or sports
• Difficulty navigating around the house with normal daily activities
Can I stop cataracts from forming?
Once the focusing lens clouds, there is no way to make it clear again, nor any technique to arrest its progress. It steadily limits a person's ability to do even simple things such as seeing street signs, driving at night, reading, stepping off curbs or steps safely, or performing other activities of an independent lifestyle.
How are cataracts treated?
If cataracts affect the ability to perform normal daily activities, cataract surgery is the only option to treat the condition and restore vision. Cataract surgery is now being used to safely improve the quality of life for millions of Americans every year. Surgery to remove the eye’s natural lens affected by the cataract and replace it with an artificial lens is one of the most commonly performed procedures today, with well over two million cataract and lens implant procedures performed annually. IOLs, also known as intraocular lenses, have been used for over 50 years to restore vision after lens removal.
What are the cataract treatment options?
Monofocal lenses or traditional lens implant is the most basic type of lens implant used to correct vision after cataract surgery. With monofocal or traditional lenses, your vision is typical in focus at only one distance — near or far. A monofocal lens implant can provide very good vision after cataract surgery, if no astigmatism is present but only at one set distance, usually seeing things at a distance such as for driving or going to the movies. A monofocal lens implant does not correct intermediate vision for doing things like playing cards or seeing a golf ball on a tee.
The Tecnis Multifocal Lenses and the Toric Lenses to correct astigmatism have provide excellent results for most people. Patients may choose to have these advanced lenses implanted when they undergo cataract surgery. Unlike traditional single-vision lens implants, these Tecnis Multifocal Lens provides quality vision both at a distance and up close. Traditional lenses usually provide good vision only at a distance with limited ability to see objects that are near without glasses. The Tecnis Multifocal lens has proportioned visual zones that provide it with its major advantage.
What is post cataract capsular haze?
About 20 percent of patients will experience post capsular haze following cataract surgery. Some patients develop a capsular haze within months of their cataract surgery, and some don't develop it for years. If you notice your vision is gradually getting blurry, you may have post capsular haze, or posterior capsule opacity (PCO), sometimes referred to as a “secondary cataract,” although it is not really a cataract. Post capsular haze occurs when the epithelial cells of the lens grow over the capsule holding the lens implant.
The YAG laser is a safe, effective, and painless treatment for post capsular haze. During the procedure, called a YAG laser capsulotomy, your eye will be dilated using dilating eye drops. The YAG laser is then used to remove the hazy posterior capsule without touching the eye, allowing light to pass through the lens properly again. This is a brief (about one minute), completely painless procedure performed at the surgery center. The procedure requires no recovery period and results last forever.
If you have questions about cataracts, contact us to schedule a consultation.