The lens of the human eye is a remarkable piece of anatomy. This crystalline lens is the part of the eye that focuses light from the world around us into clear images our brain can interpret. It works in a similar way as a camera lens, though it might be more accurate to say a camera lens works similar to the eye.
Over time, the lens can become cloudy and cause blurry vision and obscure your sight. The cause of the cloudiness is a process called denaturation. This is the same process that causes egg whites to go from clear to white when cooked. Denaturation is irreversible.
When denaturation occurs in the human eye, it is called a cataract. Cataracts significantly interfere with vision.
Who is at Risk For Cataracts?
Cataracts are most often found in the elderly. Up to 50% of people between the ages of 65 and 70 have cataracts that are bad enough to interfere with their daily living.
Risk factors like smoking, poor diet, prolonged exposure to UV rays, and being exposed to chemotherapy or radiation can make you more likely to develop cataracts. Trauma and chronic use of steroids can also increase the risk and may lead to the formation of cataracts at a relatively early age.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Cataracts can cause glare, reduced visual acuity, impairment of color vision, and the appearance of halos. The ability to perceive contrast may also be reduced.
At the early stage, people often fail to notice that there is anything wrong. It is not unusual for people with cataracts to first notice there is an issue only after they begin to have problems driving. This usually occurs due to seeing glare and halos from oncoming traffic and having trouble reading road signs. Cataracts can also manifest as reduced night vision.
How Are Cataracts Diagnosed?
Cataracts are easily diagnosed during a routine eye examination or upon discovery of symptoms such as poor night vision or glares. Our ophthalmologists diagnose cataracts by inspecting your eyes with specialized devices as well as dilating your pupils to better visualize the lens.
The good news is that modern cataract surgery can often be done without stitches or even incisions. There has never been more treatment options than we have today to correct blurred vision due to cataracts.
Cataracts are treated surgically by removing both the cataract and the lens. In most cases, the lens will then be replaced with a synthetic lens. If you are interested in seeking cataract surgery Campus Eye Group should be your first stop. We can help you decide which intraocular lens (IOL) replacement procedure is right for you.
The Cataract Removal Process
Cataract removal is a painless procedure that takes very little time. It is one of the most common eye surgeries performed in the US annually.
While awake, your eye is numbed using a local anesthetic. Some people are also given a medication to help them relax without making them unconscious. A small incision is made, often via a femtosecond laser. Then the lens is broken up and gently suctioned out. A new, synthetic lens is inserted through this same small incision.
Only one eye at a time will be done. You will never be asked to have both eyes treated at the same surgical appointment.
Replacement Lenses After Cataracts
Historically, in traditional cataract surgery it was common for the lens to simply be removed and not get replaced. Patients were “aphakic” — without lenses — and prescribed very thick glasses to help them see.
These days, intra-ocular lens implants are a standard part of treatment. It is rare to run into a situation where it is contra-indicated or not possible to insert them.
Although many people object to wearing glasses with very thick lenses because they are unattractive, this is not the primary reason that replacement lenses have become the standard of care. Aphakic eyes are at increased risk of developing serious eye disorders, including retinal detachments, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.
These days, it is possible to get replacement contact lenses with additional functionality, such as correcting astigmatism (Toric lenses) or correcting distance vision (presbyopia-correcting lenses). However, such lenses are often not covered by Medicare or health insurance providers. They are typically excluded from coverage as “not medically necessary.”
Patients who wish to have such lenses typically cover them out of pocket. In many cases, they do so in order to not have deal with the extra hassle and expense of wearing glasses even after refractive surgery. However, there are cases where such lenses are contra-indicated.
Prior to surgery, you will need to have one or more appointments in preparation for the procedure. Typically, our cataract surgeons will go over your medical and vision history and talk to you about your options for achieving clear vision.
There may be a separate appointment to discuss the logistics of surgery and take measurements such as:
- Lenstar A-Scan Biometry
- Ocular Coherence Tomography
- Specular Microscopy
- Pentacam Pachymetry and Topography
- Ultrasonic Biomicroscopy
You will also be counseled concerning expectations, related issues, and potential complications. In some cases, astigmatism and other issues will not be fully correctable. This will depend on the specifics of your case. Your physician will discuss anything like that with you.
Sometimes after cataract surgery, the lens capsule becomes clouded. This is the part of the eye that holds the lens. When it becomes clouded, the condition is often called a secondary cataract. It may also be called an after cataract or posterior capsular opacification.
This condition is easily treated with a non-invasive laser procedure that only takes a few minutes. It is a one-time procedure with no risk of a secondary cataract coming back later.
How Serious Are Cataracts?
Cataracts can substantially impair your vision, interfering with obvious activities like driving and less obvious activities like bathing and basic self-care. If left untreated, a clouded lens can eventually lead to glaucoma and even blindness. In fact, about one-third of all cases of blindness are due to untreated cataracts.
Cataract surgery is a commonly performed procedure, so you can rest assured that there are plenty of qualified surgeons at Campus Eye Group who perform cataract surgery on a regular basis. Nonetheless, when it comes to your eyes, you should always take extra care and seek out the best specialist you can find.
If you are expecting to have cataract surgery Campus Eye Group would be happy to help you with this life-changing procedure that can help preserve your vision and quality of life for years to come.