A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens. Our clear aspirin sized lens is made mostly of water and protein. As we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of our lens. This formation is the start of a cataract. Over time it would cloud more of the lens which makes it hard for us to see. This is much like the effect of looking thru a smudged camera lens. The blurred image can either be at a distance or up close and can occur in either or both eyes, however it cannot spread from one eye to the other.
Patient Without Cataract Patient With Cataract
The most commonly seen cataract is the nuclear cataract which is caused by the aging process and changes. Other risk factors for the development of cataracts include people who are diabetic, have excessive exposure to the sun or some types of radiation, eye injury and prolonged intake of steroids or cortisone medication for medical conditions such as lupus or severe arthritis. In some cases babies are born with cataracts or can develop during their childhood.
In the early stages, you may have very minimal impaired vision, so only your ophthalmologist can tell. Your first symptom can be slight hazy vision only in bright light however at some point you might start noticing other changes as listed below.
Common signs and symptoms
As to date, there is no medication that can slow down the growth of or clear the clouded lens. In the early stages of the cataracts, most people can get by with improving their vision with new glasses, contacts, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying glass, however as the cataracts gets worse over time, surgery is the only effective treatment. If left untreated, the cataract will become so clouded that it would be very difficult to see any details. In a cataract surgery, the physician would remove the clouded damaged lens and replace it with a clear plastic intraocular lens (IOL). In the past, before the development of the IOL implants, physicians would wait until the cataract is advanced and dense, however today with advanced surgical techniques and equipments, physicians tend to suggest cataract surgery at an earlier stage in development.
The is currently no proven method to prevent cataracts that develop as a result of getting older, however you can wear sunglasses or wear hats with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight to delay the chances of getting cataracts. Some researchers also identified antioxidants such as vitamins C and E to be linked to reducing and slowing the progression of developing cataracts.
Once you’ve decided to have cataract surgery, the doctor will work with you to help choose the intraocular lens (IOL) to use.
IOL is an artificial lens that is implanted in the eye during cataract surgery to replace the eye’s clouded crystalline lens. There are two basic types of IOLs, each designed to correct vision at a specific visual range. The Monofocal IOL is an intraocular lens that provides patients with only one focal point. Typically these lenses only correct distance vision, which results in the need to use reading glasses for reading after the surgery. Multifocal IOL provides patients with multiple focal and corrects vision at most ranges: near, far and everywhere in between. This provides you the chance for freedom from glasses. Your doctor will work with you to decide which IOL is best suited for your visual needs.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that typically takes only 20 to 30 minutes. Below is a brief overview of the process:
And that’s it! All you’ll have to do after surgery is rest up, and get ready to enjoy the benefits of improved vision.