A Comprehensive Guide to Cataracts & Cataract Surgery
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts are essentially the clouding of the eye that prevents passage of light into the eye and affects vision. This clouding occurs on the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and pupil.
Courtesy of AllAboutVision.com, here are three different types of cataracts.
- A sub-capsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens. People with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a sub-capsular cataract.
- A nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone (nucleus) of the lens. Nuclear cataracts usually are associated with aging.
- A cortical cataract is characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the center in a spoke-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.
Why Do Cataracts Occur?
Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Essentially, the lens of the eye accumulates proteins and sugars throughout one’s life and, ultimately, this accumulation leads to the clouding of the lense and vision trouble.
Who is Most Likely to Get Cataracts & Can You Prevent Them?
Although mainly a result of aging, cataracts can affect anyone! Although most people do not show symptoms of cataracts until at least the age of 40, cataracts can also affect young adults or even children. Heredity, disease, eye injury and smoking could cause cataracts to develop at an earlier age. There is no proven way to prevent age-related cataracts. However, choosing a healthy lifestyle can slow the progression of cataracts. Some ways to delay the progression of cataracts include avoiding smoking, reducing exposure to UV rays, eating healthy foods, and wearing proper eye protection to avoid eye injury.
What are the Different Options for Treating Cataracts (Surgical and Non-Surgical)?
Initially, vision loss from cataracts may be treated with glasses or contact lenses. However, once the cataract matures it may be difficult to see well even with correction. When this occurs, the only way to treat the cataract is through surgery. During the surgery, the lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens. This lens restores the vision. The surgery may be done using a blade or with laser. Over 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery annually, making it one of the most common surgeries in the United States. In fact, the entire surgery lasts only about 20 minutes, and most people can resume normal activities fairly rapidly.
LenSx® Laser Treatment: A blade-less cataract surgery solution!
Options for cataract surgery have been changing consistently over time. One of the newest options, the LenSx® Laser is designed to make clean, geometrically pristine incisions on every plane of the anterior chamber. As described on myalcon’s site, the LenSx® Laser is a complete anterior segment cataract workstation. The system’s patented variable numerical aperture design adjusts the beam profile to the specific target tissue and depth, increasing precision and efficiency at the corneal plane, capsular plane and lenticular plane.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Surgery? Potential Complications?
Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries with a success rate of 95 percent. The biggest risks associated with cataract surgery are infections, retinal detachments, and intra-ocular bleeding. If any of these occur further treatment/surgery may be required.
How Should Patients Prepare for Surgery?
Patients should be cleared by their primary care physicians and follow pre-operative instructions provided for drops and/or cleansing their eyelids prior to surgery. Eye makeup should not be worn for 2-3 days prior to surgery to ensure a clean surgery.
How Do You Know When Surgery is Required?
A cataract may develop slowly over time or become symptomatic fairly quickly. The patient should discuss with their ophthalmologist whether glasses or contact lenses prescriptions should be updated or the point has been reached where surgery should be considered. Laser cataract surgery vs straight ultrasound (phacoemulsification) and newer technology lens implant choices to reduce the need for all glasses with their benefits should be reviewed as well.
What Does the Recovery Process Entail?
Most patients notice a significant improvement in vision by the next day. Following removal of a more dense cataract, there may be a few day delay for visual improvement to be attained. Normal activities can be resumed fairly quickly, but please consult with your doctor for specific post-op recommendations.
Can Cataracts Return After Surgery?
Cataracts themselves never return, but a small percentage of patients develop capsular haze which is easily cleared away with a 20 second painless treatment.
Final Thoughts & Additional Resources
With newer technology lasers and lens implants and improved drops and medications , cataract surgery has helped restore vision more quickly and reduced the need for glasses and contact lenses for many patients. If you think you may be suffering the effects of cataracts, see a local ophthalmologist near you.