What is a Cataract?

Cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. It can be compared to a window that is frosted or yellowed.

The amount and pattern of cloudiness within the lens can vary. If the cloudiness is not near the center of the lens, you may not be aware that a cataract is present.

The are many misconceptions about cataract. Cataract is not:

  • a film over the eye;
  • caused by overusing the eye;
  • spread from one eye to another;
  • a cause of irreversible blindness.

What causes cataract?

The most common type of cataract is related to aging of the eye. Causes of cataract include:

  • family history;
  • medical problems, such as diabetes;
  • injury to the eye;
  • medications, especially steroids
  • long-term, unprotected exposure to sunlight;
  • previous eye surgery;
  • unknown factors.

How fast does a cataract develop?

How quickly the cataract develops varies among individuals and may even be different between the two eyes. Most age-related cataracts progress over a period of years. Other cataracts, especially in younger people and people with diabetes, may progress rapidly over a short time. It is not possible to predict exactly how fast cataracts will develop in any given person.

How is cataract treated?

Surgery is the only way a cataract can be removed. However, if symptoms of cataract are not bothering you very much, surgery may not be needed. Sometimes a simple change in your eyeglass prescription may be helpful.

No medications, supplements or exercises have been shown to prevent or cure cataracts.

Protection from excessive sunlight may help slow the progression of cataracts. Sunglasses that screen out ultraviolet (UV) light rays or regular sunglasses with a clear, anti-UV coating offer this protection.

How is a cataract detected?

By performing a thorough eye examination, your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) can detect the presence of a cataract

A careful evaluation will rule out any other conditions that may be causing blurred vision or other eye problems. Problems with other parts of the eye can be responsible for vision loss and may prevent you from having much or any improvement in vision after cataract surgery. If improvement in your vision in unlikely, cataract removal may not be recommended. Your ophthalmologist can tell you how much visual improvement is likely.

When should surgery be done?

Surgery should be considered when cataracts cause enough loss of vision to interfere with your daily activities.

It is not true that cataracts need to be "ripe" before they can be removed or that they need to be removed just because they are present.

Based on your symptoms, you and your ophthalmologist should decide together when surgery is appropriate.

What can I expect from cataract surgery?

Over 1.4 million people in the U.S. have cataract surgery each year, and more than 95% of those surgeries are performed with no complications.

During cataract surgery, which is usually performed under local or topical anethesia as an outpatient procedure, the cloudy lens is removed from the eye. In most cases, the focusing power of the natural lens is restored by replacing it with a permanent intraocular lens implant.

Your ophthalmologist performs this delicate surgery using a microscope, miniature instaments, and other modern technology

After surgery, you will have to take eyedrops as your opthalmologist directs. Your surgeon will check your eye several times to make sure it is healing properly.

Cataract surgery is a highly successful procedure. Improved vision is the result in over 95% of cases, unless there is a problem with the cornea, retina, optic nerve, or other structures. It is important to understand that complications can occur during or after the surgery, some severe enough to limit vision. If you experience even the slightest problem after cataract surgery, your ophthalmologist will want to hear from you immediately.

In many people who have cataract surgery, the natural capsule that supports the intraocular lens becomes cloudy. If this occurs, your ophthalmologist can perform an outpatient laser procedure to open this cloudy capsule, restoring clear vision.

 © 2009 Cedar Eye Center