Cataracts are a common condition that affects over half of the people aged 80 or over in the US. Most commonly, cataracts are treated through surgery. Many of us will have met people who have had cataract surgery, but it’s not something that gets talked about much!
What are cataracts?
Inside our eye is a clear lens that refracts light. It’s this light that allows us to see. When someone has a cataract it means that there is a cloudy patch on this clear lens, which is caused by the proteins within the cells of the lens breaking down over time.
This breaking down of cells is something that happens naturally as we age, but it can also be exacerbated by things like:
- This causes cell division and the build-up of heavy metals in the eye, which contributes to cataracts. Stopping smoking can reduce your risk of cataracts.
- Sun damage. Using sunglasses that protect from UV light can help prevent this.
- Long-term use of some steroid medications.
Usually when a cataract first forms it is quite small, and it may not impair the vision. They will usually start to get bigger, and this is when they cause problems with vision. People with cataracts will typically experience blurry vision in the eye or eyes which have the cataract, and they may have trouble seeing clearly at night or seeing very small objects. This makes it difficult for people with cataracts to work on intricate tasks such as sewing.
Cataracts can also affect how contract and color appear, as people with cataracts will often find that their vision takes on a yellow or a brown hue, which makes it difficult to tell the difference between colors.
What are the treatments?
If cataracts aren’t impacting the vision too much then the symptoms can be mitigated through the use of glasses, or by using extra light when needed.
Once the vision has become quite impaired, it’s usual to treat cataracts through surgery. Cataract surgery is a common procedure, in fact, searching for cataract surgery near me is likely to bring up hundreds of results!
Be sure to use a reputable surgeon who has been recommended by your doctor and who has good reviews.
What is cataract surgery?
In cataract surgery, the cloudy lens of the eye is removed and a clear artificial lens is used to replace it. The artificial lens (called an intraocular lens) becomes a permanent part of your eye.
As technology improves there are more and more options available for intraocular lenses, for example, it’s possible to have an intraocular lens that also helps to correct other vision impairments such as short or longsightedness. If you decide to have another type of lens implanted, it’s important that you ensure that your surgeon has the experience and good reviews of working with your specific type of lens, as each type of lens is slightly different to work with.
The surgery is performed under local anesthetic on an outpatient basis and is usually very quick. The healing time is around eight weeks, and there will often be some discomfort while you heal.