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Cataracts: Facts & Treatments

Just as a camera lens focuses light to create a sharp image on the camera’s film or internal sensors, the lens in your eye focuses light rays on the back of the eye where the retina maps and codes those images and sends them to your brain.

A cataract is a clouding within the eye's otherwise clear lens, preventing the light from getting through causing reduced vision or even blindness.

What Causes Cataracts?

When a cataract clouds your lens, it blocks the clear image from getting through to your retina. Like a foggy area on a window pane, the cataract creates visual distortions, or can even grow to produce blindness. Most cataracts take years to develop, and so even before your vision becomes noticeably blurry or dull, there are many other possible subtle signs you have a cataract including double vision, excessive glare, light sensitivity, fading or yellowing of colours, or even poor night vision while driving.

Most often, cataract development is part of normal aging, though cataracts can also develop as a consequence of eye injuries as well as some diseases or even medications. Your genetics may also play a role in whether you have cataracts. Some families are more likely to develop them than others.

There are also some common myths about cataracts. For example, cataracts are not caused by over-using your eyes, and do not spread from one eye to the other. But the most important fact about cataracts is that they are usually highly treatable and in most cases good vision can be restored.

Treatment for Cataracts

Contrary to what some people think, once a cataract has formed in the eye, there are no eyedrops or medications, eye exercises, or glasses that will make the cataract go away. However if the cataract is small or located on the side of the lens, and your vision is only slightly blurry, changing your eyeglass prescription may improve your vision, at least for a time.

For larger or obstructive cataracts, surgery - the removal of the clouded lens - is the only proven treatment for full cataract resolution or removal. Fortunately, with advances in technology and technique, cataract surgery is extremely safe, almost
pain-free, and has an extremely high rate of success.

Effectiveness of Treatment

New treatments and techniques mean that most cataracts can be successfully treated with surgery, often to fully restore vision. Cataract surgery is the most effective option. Vision improvement is usually achieved on recovery within one to three days.

If a cataract is preventing you or a loved one from seeing well enough to read, drive, or enjoy life, talk to your doctor about cataract surgery and what it can do for you.

What Happens in Cataract Surgery?

During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is broken up using sound waves, and the tiny lens particles are suctioned out. Then a clear, artificial, and permanent intraocular lens (IOL) replacement is inserted into that eye.

Cataract surgery typically is a quick procedure. The actual surgery may take as little as 20-30 minutes. A local anesthetic reduces the discomfort, and most patients find it virtually pain-free.
For the next few days following surgery, some patients feel a little discomfort in the treated eye while it heals. At the same time, most patients notice significant improvement in their vision.

How Do I Know if Surgery is For Me?

Most cataracts are treatable by surgery. Whether eye surgery is for you is a decision to be made between you and your ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist will perform a complete eye examination and check your medical history and status to let you know if you are a good candidate for successful vision improvement through cataract surgery. If treatment involves removing and replacing the clouded lens, he or she will also take measurements of your eye in order to customize a new artificial lens.

Choosing the Right Lens That Best Fits Your Lifestyle

Until recently, everyone who had cataract surgery received basically the same Intraocular lens (IOL). But with today’s advanced technologies, there are several choices. Some may allow you to see well at all distances without the help of glasses, bifocals, or reading glasses.

Monofocal Lens (Acrysof® IQ IOL): These lenses provide clear vision at a distance. You may however still need to wear glasses to see up close.

Astigmatism-Correcting Monofocal Lens (Toric IOL): These advanced technology lenses are designed to correct both cataracts and astigmatism. You can expect clear distance vision without the need of glasses. However you will likely need glasses for reading.

Multifocal Lens (ReSTOR® IOL): Most IOL’s can only correct vision at one distance. These advanced technology lenses correct vision near, far and in-between, for your best chance at freedom from glasses.

Astigmatism Correcting Multifocal Lens (ReSTOR® Toric IOL): These advanced technology lenses have multiple focal points, designed to correct both cataracts and corneal astigmatism. The lens provides a full range of vision – near, far and intermediate while offering enhanced image quality and your best chance at freedom from glasses.

After Surgery

Although cataract surgery generally has a quick and painless recovery, you should make arrangements to have someone drive you home afterwards.