Cataracts

In the normal healthy eye, the lens is clear allowing light to pass through and produce a sharp image on the retina. A cataract is a clouding of the lens which reduces the amount of light that can pass to the retina.

WHO can get cataracts?

  • Most commonly people over age 55
  • 23% of those over age 75 are affected
  • Can affect younger people
  • Rarely newborns are affected
  • Cataracts account for over 1/2 of all cases of impaired vision and affect over 20 million people

WHAT Causes Cataracts?

Chemical changes within the protein material of the lens are caused by:

  • Aging
  • Injury
  • Inherited tendencies
  • Diseases
  • Birth defects

HOW Can Cataracts be Prevented?

  • There is no known way to prevent cataracts due to aging
  • Evidence suggests that exposure to ultraviolet light (sunlight) and cigarette smoking may speed development

HOW are Cataracts Diagnosed?

  • Comprehensive eye health examinations are needed to detect cataracts
  • Follow-up care is needed to assure best possible correction

WHAT is the Treatment for Cataracts?

  • Prescription glasses can help you see better
  • Surgery may be the best option to restore vision in severe cases
  • Decision regarding surgery is made jointly by the patient and eyecare professional
  • When Cataracts should be removed depends on:
    • Extent of Clouding
    • Location of the Cataract
    • Extent that normal daily activities are impaired

HOW Do Cataracts Affect My Sight?

The clouding of the crystalline lens of the eye keeps light from passing through easily causing blurred vision. Having a cararact is like looking through a foggy window.

The clouding may affect the entire lens or just a small portion of the lens. This formation of cataracts may cause little or no visual problem for some people, especially in the early stages of the condition. Where a substantial decrease in vision is experienced, surgery may be necessary. Severe cataracts may cause a complete loss of functional vision.

The location and amount of clouding will determine how severly vision is affected. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes but the severity and speed at which they develop may be different in each eye. Cataracts can occur gradually or rapidly.

  • Cataracts don’t “spread” from one eye to the other
  • Cataracts aren’t caused by using your eyes too much
  • Cataracts aren’t contagious or related to cancer
  • There is no known way to reverse the clouding once it occurs
  • Cataracts aren’t a film or coating on the eye.

WHAT does Surgery Involve?

  • 95% or better success rate
  • Surgery has few complications
  • Short recovery time
  • Usually done on an outpatient basis
  • Eyes are done one at a time
  • Usually the more impaired eye is done first
  • Surgery is usually scheduled so that adequate vision is in the other eye allowing you to function.
  • Involves removal of the clouded lens
  • Often an artifical lens implant (intraocular lens implant or IOL) is inserted in place of the old damaged lens
  • Eyeglasses and contact lenses are other forms of replacement

Sight is dependent on many factors, therefore cataract removal may not result in complete improvement in vision. Retina health is a factor affecting vision improvement. If the retina is damaged, proper eyewear can usually help improve vision to an acceptable range.

REMEMBER…. Cataracts can be successfully treated!