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For many people, cataract surgery is something they have to talk about with their eye doctor eventually. As you age, your vision changes, sometimes due to cataracts forming on your eye's lenses.
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.
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When you begin to develop cataracts, you may initially see little effect on your vision. Your eye care professional may tell you that you have a cataract, but you may not even recognize any vision problems. At worst, you may notice slightly blurred vision. However, 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. The cataract can grow larger as time passes, impacting your vision even more. The National Eye Institute indicated they expect the number of Americans with cataracts will double from 2010's 24.4 million to 50 million in 2050. With our aging population, the number will continue to grow beyond 2050.
Age alone is not the only culprit for cataracts. Other risk factors include:
While cataract surgery is an option for many people who develop this condition, it is essential to continue to try to prevent them from forming as much as possible. 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, and 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 are 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 in 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.
Surgery options usually involve ultrasound energy or laser-assisted technology. There are times when a cataract may interfere with the treatment of another eye issue and need removal 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. Cataract surgery is one of the most performed surgeries in the United States, with more than 3 million performed every year. Fewer than 2% of procedures had sight-threatening complications.
Cataract surgery can be scary, but it is a very common procedure with few complications when done correctly. Many patients undergoing cataract surgery have questions to help ease their minds, and below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive at Campus Eye Center.
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 there are cataracts in both eyes that require surgery, they will wait for that eye to recover before doing the second eye.
This might be scary for you, but yes, you are awake during cataract surgery for 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. We will also fit you with an eye shield to help protect your vision during sleep. The protection only has to be worn for a few days.
After the procedure, you should not bend over until two weeks have passed. When you bend over, you put pressure on the eyes, which can cause discomfort or slow the healing process after the surgery. It is best to be cautious after your surgery and wait until the recommended healing period is over.
For most people, a waiting period of 24 hours is enough before they can drive again. However, it would help if you spoke with your eye doctor before driving to ensure it is safe. If you wear contacts to drive, you must wear glasses instead while your eye heals from the surgery.
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 normal for the eye to look bloodshot because of damage to the blood vessels during the process. That redness will fade reasonably quickly within a few days.
The significant upside is that many patients report clearer vision within hours following cataract surgery. Others may take a bit more time, perhaps a week or two. Your lens will be good as new at the end of a month, though some patients still require glasses after the surgery.
As mentioned above, recovery timeframes will vary from person to person, and your doctor can help you determine how well you're healing at a check-up appointment in the days after surgery. There are steps you can take, however, to speed your recovery.
Following recovery, most people do still 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.
Campus Eye Center is an exceptional eye center with experienced eye doctors, Ophthalmogists and Optometrists, in Lancaster, PA.
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