Cataracts are a very common condition that can occur for several reasons, including eye trauma and diabetes, but are most often associated with aging. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute, by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.
Aging is a natural part of living and one that we can’t avoid. A lot of things change as you age, including your eyes. Age-related eye conditions are extremely common; as your eyes age, they become more susceptible to certain conditions, and this includes cataracts. Cataracts are the most common cause of preventable blindness in the world, with millions of people developing them each year. In fact, more than half of Americans over the age of 80 either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery.
What are Cataracts?
Inside of your eye, behind the iris and pupil, there is a natural lens that helps focus light onto the retina. The lens is a necessary part of good vision, and needs to be completely clear for the best vision. As you age, the proteins that make up this lens begin to break down and clump together, creating a film over the lens. This is how cataracts form.
Cataracts can develop slowly over a period of years, or suddenly, especially after an injury. Many people do not realize they have cataracts until they are diagnosed with them at an eye exam, or until their vision starts to worsen. When left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness.
Cataract Symptoms and Causes
Cataracts often do not have any symptoms until vision starts to worsen. Many people don’t realize they have them for years. In the beginning, people often just think that they need a new prescription. One of the earliest signs of cataract development is a frequent change in prescription.
Cataracts can sometimes cause symptoms such as:
- Glare/halo around lights
- Light sensitivity
- Difficulty seeing in low-light situations
- Poor night vision
- A yellowish tint to vision
- Dull color vision
The exact cause of cataract development is unknown, but there are several factors thought to contribute to their development. Of course, age is the most common cataract risk factor. Aside from that, lifestyle and environmental factors such as smoking and UV ray exposure can contribute to cataract development. Poor diet and lack of exercise may also contribute.
Cataract Treatments and Procedures
Cataracts are only treatable through cataract surgery. There are no natural home remedies or medicated eye drops that can get rid of cataracts, unfortunately. Many people are understandably put off by the idea of eye surgery, but what most people don’t know is that cataract surgery is actually extremely straightforward, virtually painless, and requires little to no downtime.
Gone are the days of a lengthy hospital stay and recovery process. This isn’t your grandparents’ cataract surgery!
Cataract surgery is done on an outpatient basis and requires no hospital stay. You should bring someone with you to drive you home after the surgery, however. The procedure will last about an hour start to finish.
To start, your surgeon will numb your eyes and gently prop them open with a lid speculum. This ensures you do not blink during surgery. Your doctor will start by creating incisions in the cornea. These incisions will allow your surgeon to use different tools to access the cataract.
In order to access the cataract, your surgeon will need to perform a capsulotomy. Your natural lens in encapsulated by a thin membrane called the capsule, which is responsible for holding it in place. To get to the cataract, your surgeon will remove the front portion of the capsule, leaving the back portion intact to hold the IOL.
Once they have access to the lens, they will use a technique called phacoemulsification to break the cataract into pieces. The pieces are removed completely and the cataract is gone!
To replace the natural lens and restore vision, your doctor will place an IOL, or intraocular lens. Intraocular lenses are designed to mimic the natural functions of the lens. Premium IOLs can even offer refractive benefits and correct vision problems like myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia.
Cataract Surgery Recovery
Cataract surgery recovery is short and painless. Many people are able to return to work the very next day, and resume all normal activities within few weeks or when cleared by your doctor.
Your surgeon will send you home with some prescription eye drops and a list of aftercare instructions. It is important that you follow all of your doctor’s advice to avoid infection or complication. Be sure to avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activity for a few weeks. You should also avoid bending over or putting any extra pressure on the eye.
You will attend a series of follow up appointments to allow your doctor to keep track of your recovery. You should voice any concerns during these appointments and report any alarming side effects as soon as possible.
Interested in cataract surgery? Do you suspect you have cataracts? Cutarelli Vision can help! Contact our Denver, Fort Collins, Boulder Valley or Colorado Springs offices to schedule your cataract surgery consultation or your eye examination today.
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