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Let's start with the basics. Just what is a cataract? In simple terms, it's a clouding of the eye's lens and occurs most typically in people over 40 years old. Sadly, it's also the most prevalent cause of blindness worldwide. There are three cataract types … a subscapular cataract at the back of the lens, a nuclear cataract deep in the central area of the lens, and a cortical cataract that starts in the periphery of the lens and move inward toward the center. Nuclear cataracts are most closely associated with aging.
Moving on to symptoms, you'll initially see little effect on your vision. In fact, your eye care professional may tell you that you have a cataract and you won't even recognize any vision problems. At worst, you may notice slightly blurred vision. Apart from that, cataracts may cause light sources to be too bright or cause headlights coming in your direction to glare much more noticeably. Other cataract symptoms include:
Cataracts can develop slowly or appear quickly. The only way to know if you have cataracts with certainty is to get an eye exam from an ophthalmologist.
The lens of your eye consists of water and protein arranged precisely to keep your lens clear so that light passes through it. Aging may cause that protein to clump which results in a clouded lens. As time passes, the cataract can grow larger impacting your vision even more. The National Eye Institute indicated that nearly 70 percent of Americans 80 and older, representing 24.4 million people, had cataracts in 2010. With our population aging, that number is expected to grow to double to 50.2 people by 20150.
Age alone is the only culprit. Other risk factors have been attributed to:
There's conflicting evidence associated with cataract prevention. Some studies suggest various nutrients and supplements may reduce the risk of this eye disease. Vitamin E, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to potentially reduce your risk. Because UV rays from the sun are a cause, sunglasses that block them may be a deterrent.Watch Cataracts Videos
Initially, you may be able to offset the effects of cataracts through different glasses, better lighting or other methods. But once your cataracts progress to the point you experience major vision problems, cataract surgery is your best option.
During cataract surgery, the lens is removed and typically replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). That lens implant becomes a permanent part of your eye and unnoticeable. IOLs can be made of plastic, silicone or acrylic with some versions available to block UV light and some that are rigid and require a few sutures. Most IOLs are flexible and can be inserted with a small incision requiring zero stitches. The surgeon simply folds it over and inserts it into the area where your natural lens used to be. Once inside that capsule, it unfolds to fill the capsule.
Surgery options usually involve ultrasound energy or laser-assisted technology. There are times when a cataract may interfere with treatment of another eye issue and be removed to provide better access to monitor or treat that condition such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.
Any surgery is scary. But the risks of cataract surgery are nominal. It's a simple, relatively painless and generally safe way to recapture your vision. To make you feel even better … cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States with more than 3 million performed every year. Fewer than 2 percent of procedures had sight-threatening complications.
Cataract surgery can be performed right in our office on an outpatient basis. We use state-of-the-art small incision, no-stitch surgery with a topical anesthetic to reduce recovery time. Unless your cataract surgery is complicated, the simple procedure will take no longer than 10 minutes. Recovery owing to sedation may take you another 30 minutes to an hour. Note that your surgeon will only do one eye at a time. If both eyes require surgery, he or she will wait for that eye to recover before doing the second eye.
This might be scary for you, but yes. Two reasons. First, to reduce risks from anesthesia. Second, to allow your cataract surgeon to talk with you during the procedure. You will be given medication, either orally or through an IV, to keep you calm, relaxed and comfortable. Some patients don't even recall the surgery.
You'll need a driver to take you home following cataract surgery. If you don't have sunglasses, you'll also be given a pair to wear home to protect your eyes from bright light. You'll also be fitted with a shield to help protect your eye during sleep. The shield only has to be worn for a few days.
It may take some time for you to adjust following surgery and adapt to an intraocular lens that replaces your natural lens. But don't worry. It's only temporary. As your eye will experience trauma, it's not uncommon for the eye to look bloodshot because the blood vessels have been damaged. That redness will fade reasonably fast within a few days. The major upside, though, is that, for many patients, they report clearer vision within hours following cataract surgery. Others may take a bit more time, perhaps a week or two. At the end of a month, your eye will be good as new.
As mentioned above, recovery timeframes will vary from person to person. There are steps you can take, however, to speed your recovery.
Following recovery, most people do need glasses. There are cases, however, where your reliance on eyeglasses is reduced. If you wear glasses following cataract surgery, it's best to choose lenses with anti-reflective coating and photochromic lenses for best vision and comfort.
If you're experiencing vision problems and think cataracts might be an issue, give us a call to schedule an appointment. Campus Eye Center has locations in Lancaster and Willow Valley.
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