What are Cataracts?
Like a camera, your eye contains a clear, crystalline lens which is responsible for focusing light and images on the retina in the back of the eye. Cataracts occur when the eye’s natural focusing lens inside the eye becomes cloudy and hardens progressively over time. As the cataracts worsen, light has difficultly passing through the lens and focusing on the retina, which causes blurriness and other visual distortions. For some people, cataracts will rapidly progress and for others, it may take years for their cataracts to become bothersome and debilitating enough to pursue treatment.
Cataracts most commonly occur as a natural part of the aging process and everyone will eventually develop cataracts if they live long enough. In addition to age, cataracts can also develop as a result of trauma, eye surgery, diabetes, medications, and even some babies can be born with cataracts (congenital cataracts).
In the early stages of developing a cataract, you may not notice any symptoms or issues with your vision. Over time as cataracts progress, your natural lens will continue to become more cloudy and dense, which will eventually cause some distortions to your vision. Although symptoms of cataracts can vary with each person, here are some common signs of cataracts:
- Cloudy and/or blurry vision
- Increased problems with seeing/driving at night
- Double vision
- Light sensitivity
- Seeing halos or glare
- White spots over the pupil
- Regular changes to prescriptions for eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
Treatment for Cataracts
In the early stages of developing cataracts, the vision issues caused by cataracts can be corrected by adjusting the patient’s eyeglasses or contact lens prescription. As the cataracts develop, there will come a point in time where the vision can no longer be improved by updating the patient’s prescription, and the only solution to reversing the effects of cataracts is by having the cataracts surgically removed.
Cataract surgery involves breaking up and removing the cataract through a tiny, micro incision and replacing the natural lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) implant. Cataract surgery patients typically experience very little downtime, and the majority of patients are back to their regular activities and even driving within 24-48 hours after surgery. Patients will need to take a regimen of prescription drops to help prevent infection and regulate healing for several weeks after surgery. As with any type of surgery, there are a variety of benefits and risks involved with cataract removal that will be discussed by your doctor during a thorough cataract examination prior to surgery.