What Are Cataracts?
Cataracts describe the cloudiness of the lens of the eye as a result of the natural aging process. The lens is responsible for focusing light onto the retina to help us see clearly. When a cataract forms, the lens becomes cloudy and yellow from years of UV exposure. Cataracts are the number one cause of curable blindness around the world. Wearing sunglasses helps, but everyone will ultimately develop cataracts, even with the best UV protection.
How Do I Know When I Have Cataracts?
A patient may be asymptomatic for many years as the formation of cataracts is often gradual. Cataracts become bothersome when they prevent a patient from reading with their glasses or become averse to driving at night due to glare. If you feel like cataracts are impacting your daily activities with difficulty, be sure to visit with your local eye care provider to evaluate your lens health with diagnostic tests and a dilated eye examination.
What’s Next After a Cataract Diagnosis?
Cataracts cannot be reversed via oral or topical medications. A new eye glass or contact lens prescription may help your vision, but might not be the best option depending on how dense the cataract has become. The only way to get rid of a cataract is to remove the natural lens and replace it with a synthetic lens, called an Intraocular Lens. The Intraocular Lens is specific for your visual needs and lifestyle. Your eye care provider and cataract surgeon are knowledgeable sources for educating you on the various lenses unique for your vision.
Cataract Surgery Expectations?
Cataract removal surgery is a fast and effective treatment once deemed necessary. The surgery is performed with local anesthesia under sedation, usually in a specialized outpatient surgical center. Laser cataract surgery is the most advanced way of cataract removal. Femtosecond lasers are precise and reproducible and are especially beneficial in patients who have astigmatism. Limbal relaxing incisions are performed with exact position, length and depth to reduce lower amounts of astigmatism. In higher amounts of astigmatism, the femtosecond laser aligns the toric-astigmatism correcting lenses at an exact position thus reducing errors of misalignment and a residual prescription. Patients can expect to have one eye surgery done at a time to allow for healing before the second eye surgery. The recovery time for cataract surgery is usually a couple days to a few weeks with continual visual improvement based on the complexity of the procedure and overall eye health. Follow up appointments are made after surgery to monitor visual progress.
After surgery, patients are asked to avoid heavy lifting, bending below the waist, and heavy exercise to ensure the lens implant heals properly in place and does not move from its centered position. Restrictions for avoiding yard work, dirty environments, and keeping water out of the eyes are stressed to prevent infection following surgery and facilitate a predictable recovery.