A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye. Normally, the human lens is clear and transparent. It focuses images onto the back part of the eye, called the retina. As a lens ages, it becomes blurry. The most common cataract symptoms are blurry vision, glare when driving or reading, more light needed to read, fading or dullness to colors, ghosting or doubling of your vision in one eye and the need to change your glasses more frequently because your prescription keeps changing.
Cataracts may take years to develop, to the point where surgical removal is necessary, especially if the cloudiness does not involve the center of the lens. The most common cause of cataracts is a result of the normal aging process. Other causes can include diabetes, past eye injuries, infections, medications (such as steroids), excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, and a family history.
If prescribing or changing your current glasses is not effective in improving your vision problem, then cataract surgery may be recommended. This is particularly true if the visual changes caused by the cataract limit your ability to perform your daily tasks such as reading, driving, or other normal enjoyable activities.
Doctors remove the cataract from the eye using an outpatient procedure called phacoemulsification. One eye is operated on at a time. Sedation is used so that the patient is comfortable and remembers little about the procedure. Local anesthetics are used to make the surgery pain free and the surgery is generally completed in about 20 minutes. Patients are able to go home shortly after the surgery, and are seen in our office the following day. Generally sutures are not required. The use of intraocular lens implants allows many patients to enjoy not only the benefit of improved vision following cataract removal, but also, in many cases, a significant reduction in their need for corrective glasses after surgery. An intraocular implant, or IOL, is an artificial lens made of silicone or acrylic material that is implanted inside the eye to substitute for the natural lens that has been removed.
We now have available multifocal, or presbyopic correcting implants, which will make it possible to see for both distance and near after cataract surgery. We also have toric implants, which help correct astigmatism.
Eye drops are prescribed after surgery and are usually needed for 2-4 weeks. Most of the healing takes place during the first few weeks after surgery. Regular activities are generally permitted during this time. Improved vision will generally occur during the first few weeks or sooner for most patients. Regular postoperative visits are scheduled for the first postoperative day, one week, and at either week 3 or 4. Glasses will be prescribed at that time.