What are cataracts?
A cataract is an opacification (clouding) of the natural lens inside of the eye. The lens helps us focus on objects at different distances. As a part of the normal aging process, changes in the lens can cause it to become cloudy. Left untreated, a cataract can become so dense that it causes blindness. In fact, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. The original meaning of “cataract” is “waterfall,” and the name was chosen because distorted vision caused by a cataract reminded people of the distorted view that is obtained when looking through a waterfall.
Who gets cataracts?
Most people who develop cataracts are older than 60 years. Cataracts in older people are so common they can be regarded as normal part of the aging process. Among the major conditions related to cataracts are diabetes or injury to the eye. Medications such as steroids can also cause cataract formation.
In rare cases, congenital cataracts are present at birth. These cataracts are usually related to the mother having German measles, chickenpox, or other infectious diseases during pregnancy or to the child having certain syndromes (e.g. Marfan’s). Some cataracts are inherited.
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
Typical symptoms include:
• Cloudy, fuzzy, foggy, or filmy vision.
• Changes in the perception of colors.
• Problems driving at night because headlights seem too bright.
• Problems with glare from lamps or the sun.
• Frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription.
• Double vision.
These symptoms can also be signs of other eye problems. If you have any of them, consult an ophthalmologist for an eye examination.
How can cataracts be treated?
The natural lens of the eye that has been damaged by a cataract is surgically removed and then replaced with a clear artificial lens. During the surgery, usually done on an outpatient basis, a tiny incision is made in the eye and the cataract-damaged natural lens is removed through the incision. An artificial lens is then inserted through the same incision. Most patients have significantly improved vision after the procedure.
The treatment for this condition is a procedure called a YAG laser capsulotomy, which is named for the material used to generate the laser energy (yttrium-aluminum-garnet). The doctor uses a laser (light) beam to make a small opening in the capsule through which light can pass unimpeded. This surgery is painless and does not require a hospital stay. Most people see well after a YAG capsulotomy. Your doctor will discuss the risks with you.
What are the benefits of cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery restores quality vision for millions of patients each year. Good vision is vital to an enjoyable lifestyle. Numerous research studies show that cataract surgery restores quality-of-life functions including reading, working, moving around, hobbies, safety, self-confidence, independence, daytime and nighttime driving, community and social activities, mental health, and overall life satisfaction.
What are the risks of cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is performed millions of times every year in the United States. In fact, it is the most commonly performed surgery in the U.S. About 98 percent of patients have a complication-free experience that results in improved vision. Nevertheless, cataract surgery has risks and complications. Most complications resolve in a matter of days to months. In rare cases, patients lose some degree of vision permanently as a result of the surgery.
Is it still necessary to wear thick glasses after cataract surgery?
No. Today, cataract patients who have artificial or intraocular lenses (IOLs) implanted during surgery may only need reading glasses for close vision. Patients who do not receive IOLs wear contact lenses for distance vision and reading glasses for close vision. Some patients choose to wear multifocal contact lenses for all distances
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