What is a cataract?
A cataract occurs when your eye's natural lens begins to thicken and becomes cloudy over time. This can cause your vision to become hazy, blurry, or less colorful. They can develop in either one or both eyes. Because they typically develop over time, you might not realize you have a cataract in the earliest stages, before it begins to impact your vision. As they progress, they can interfere with being able to do daily activities such as driving, reading, or watching TV.
Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and is the most prevalent cause of blindness in the world. Today, cataracts affect more than 24 million Americans, and that number is expected to double by the year 2050. Fortunately, cataracts can be easily treated with surgery.
What causes cataracts?
Cataracts can occur as a natural part of the aging process. In fact, everyone will eventually develop a cataract if one lives long enough. This type of age-related cataract is known as a nuclear cataract. They can also be caused by other eye diseases such as glaucoma. Depending on their cause, you may develop one of the following types of cataract:
- Traumatic cataract: Typically caused by an eye injury. Be sure to wear proper eyewear when performing activities that put your vision health at risk.
- Radiation cataract: This type of cataract can be caused by radiation, including that from ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.
- Pediatric cataract: Contrary to popular belief, children can develop cataracts as well. These can be present at birth (congenital cataract) or develop later on. This type of cataract is rare and normally genetic.
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
In the earliest stages of cataract, you might experience minor symptoms, if any. You may notice that your vision is blurred a little, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass. As the cataract progresses, you may experience the following:
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Need for brighter light for reading and other activities
- Seeing "halos" around lights
- Faded, dull colors
- Double vision in a single eye
- Difficulty completing daily or routine tasks
If you’ve developed a nuclear cataract, you might actually notice an improvement in your near vision early on. This is referred to as “second sight” and will disappear as the cataract worsens.
What are the risk factors for cataracts?
You may have an increased risk of developing cataracts if the following apply:
- Being over 40 years of age
- Being obese
- Having experienced an eye injury
- Excessive exposure to radiation such as UV light
- Having a family history of cataracts
- Smoking or excessive alcohol consumption
- Having certain comorbidities, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
When will I need cataract surgery?
No matter the type of cataract you have, the treatment is always lens replacement surgery. Your doctor may suggest this once your cataract begins to interfere with your daily activities. During cataract surgery, your eye surgeon will remove the cloudy cataract lens and replace it with an intraocular lens (otherwise known as an IOL). Cataract surgery is very safe and usually takes no longer than thirty minutes.
When it comes to cataract surgery, you have choices.
Remove the cataract and replace it with a lens that partially corrects for distance vision. You will likely need to wear trifocals to see far, intermediate, and near.
Remove the cataract and with a combination of Refractive Laser Treatment and specialized lenses, fully correct distance vision. You will still need glasses for intermediate and near vision tasks such as working on computers or mobile devices.
Remove the cataract and place a lens that allows you to see at multiple distances, reducing the need for glasses for many tasks. You could occasionally need glasses for low light conditions or for very specific focusing.
All of the above procedures can be combined with a surgical laser. This laser adds precision and can also help to reduce or eliminate the need for glasses. As with all surgical procedures, results can vary. Be sure to discuss with your surgeon about all risks and possible outcomes before making any decisions.
What type of IOL is right for me?
The right lens for you depends on your budget and lifestyle needs. In addition to correcting cataracts, premium IOLs can also correct nearsightedness, improving your vision beyond where it was before you ever developed cataracts. This allows you to live a life free of glasses. The types of lenses include:
Extended Range of Focus Lenses:
These lenses offer the greatest depth of focus of any lens on the market, allowing clear vision at night as well as daytime.
Multifocal lenses correct vision at two separate distances, though glasses may be needed for certain situations. For those with active lifestyles this is a very good option.
Patients who choose toric lenses most likely will not need glasses or contacts for distance after surgery, but will still need reading glasses
Monofocal lenses will correct for near or far vision, but not both. Patients will still need glasses for the range not chosen.
Questionnaire and Checklist
Our cataract surgeons will go over options with you to ensure you choose the best lens for your budget and lifestyle. To aid us in the consultation process, please fill out our Lifestyle Questionnaire and Activities of Daily Living Checklist.