The lens of the eye focuses light and adjusts the eye’s focus. Proteins in the lens are arranged to keep it clear so that light can pass through it, but these proteins can clump together, causing cloudiness or a cataract.
Cataracts reduce the sharpness of the image reaching the retina. When the cataract is small, the cloudiness affects only a small part of the lens, but as the cataract “grows,” vision will gradually become dulled or blurred.
The clear lens may also start to slowly change to a yellow/brown color, adding tint to vision. Over time, tinting can make it more difficult to read and to perform routine activities as well as to distinguish between certain colors. A cataract can occur in either or both eyes, but cannot spread from one eye to the other.
Most cataracts are related to the aging process, and are common among older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Other causes of cataracts can include:
- Secondary Cataract – Sometimes cataracts can appear after surgery for other eye conditions, in persons suffering from other metabolic conditions such as diabetes, or can be related to certain medications.
- Traumatic Cataract – Cataracts that form after an eye injury.
- Congenital Cataract – Some babies are born with cataracts or can develop them in childhood, often in both eyes.
- Radiation Cataract – Cataracts can develop after exposure to some types of radiation.
The most common symptoms of a cataract include:
- Cloudy or blurred vision.
- Colors seem faded.
- Headlights, lamps or sunlight may appear glaring and brighter than usual or appear to have a “halo” effect surrounding them.
- Poor night vision.
- Double vision or multiple images in one eye.
- Frequent prescription changes in eyeglasses or contacts.
If you suspect that you have a cataract, you should contact University Eye Specialists, P.C.. A cataract can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam that will include:
- A visual acuity test
- Dilated eye exam
- Tonometry exam – an instrument that measures the pressure inside the eye
While there are various methods for treating the symptoms of cataracts such as new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses, surgery is often the most effective treatment.
During surgery, the doctor will remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an intraocular lens implant. Modern cataract surgery uses a technique known as Phacoemulsification. A small incision is made on the side of or next to the cornea. The doctor then inserts a tiny probe into the eye which emits ultrasound waves that soften and break up the lens, making it easily removable by suction. This is the procedure used most often in cataract surgery today. A common misconception is that cataract surgery is done with a laser. This is not correct.
In more than 90% of all cases, people who have had cataract surgery have significantly better vision afterward. Recovery is generally quite rapid and patients are back to normal activities within a week. Consult a University Eye Specialists, P.C. ophthalmologist to discuss if cataract surgery is right for you.