Cataracts is a disease of the eye that results in the clouding of the lens of the eyeball. Cataracts prevent clear images from appearing on the eye’s retina; causing mild, moderate, even severe blurred vision.
Typically an eye disorder associated with aging (over half of the people in America over age 80 have either had a cataract or cataract surgery), cataracts generally occur later in life as the lens structure within the human eye changes and gets older. In addition to age, other risk factors that lead to cataracts include smoking, UV overexposure, and diabetes.
During the evaluation of your eye health, we will carefully examine your lens for signs of cataract formation. If a cataract is noticed and the clouding is causing visual disruption, the optometrist will refer you to a trusted and respected surgeon for surgery, which is the only known cure for cataracts. Our Eye Care Practice will be there for you providing pre and post cataract surgery care.
Cataract surgery is the removal of the natural lens of the eye (also called “crystalline lens”) that has developed an opacification, which is referred to as a cataract. Metabolic changes of the crystalline lens fibers over time lead to the development of the cataract and loss of transparency, causing impairment or loss of vision. During cataract surgery, a patient’s cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a synthetic lens to restore the transparency of the lens.
Following surgical removal of the natural lens, an artificial intraocular lens implant is inserted (eye surgeons say that the lens is “implanted”). Cataract surgery is generally performed by an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) in an ambulatory (rather than inpatient) setting, in a surgical center or hospital, using local anesthesia (either topical, peribulbar, or retrobulbar), usually causing little or no discomfort to the patient. Well over 90% of operations are successful in restoring useful vision, with a low complication rate. Outpatient care, high volume, minimally invasive, small incision phacoemulsification with quick post-op recovery has become the standard of care in cataract surgery all over the world.
Will You Need to Wear Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses?
Following cataract surgery, a number of options are available to provide you with clear vision. Advanced lens implants may reduce your dependence upon eyeglasses and contact lenses, or you may prefer eyewear.
To explain, during cataract surgery, your eye doctor will concentrate on two specific issues:
- Resolving cloudy vision caused by cataracts
- Vision problems caused by the lens power and shape of your eye
Private insurance plans and Medicare typically cover the expense of cataract surgery, along with a single-focus intraocular lens implant – in which a clear lens replaces your opaque lens. However, as your eye doctor performs this surgery, you can also opt to have an additional procedure to improve your vision focus. This can eliminate or reduce your need for eyewear.
Ultimately, you and your eye doctor will decide together upon the most appropriate choice for your personal needs. To make the right decision, it is important to be informed about how each option will affect your vision. Here are a few case examples to give you a clearer picture of the possibilities:
A true bookworm, Mia is always reading when she is not working in data entry. She has healthy eyes with a mild astigmatism and dislikes wearing eyeglasses. She was just diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. After cataract surgery, Mia would be very pleased to reduce her dependence upon eyeglasses.
A perfect choice for Mia would be multifocal contact lenses, which enable near and far focus without any cumbersome eyeglasses.
Another option would be a procedure described as a “corneal relaxing incision”. During her cataract surgery, Mia’s eye doctor would make an additional incision in the cornea to reshape it.
Ethan is an avid outdoorsman who has mild astigmatism in both eyes and wears eyeglasses for sharp vision. Recently, he was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. He is not bothered with wearing glasses for reading or close tasks, yet he would love to bike, swim and jog without his prescription glasses.
Ideal vision correction for Ethan would be an intraocular lens implant that resolves astigmatism. Called a toric lens, this implant can focus his distance vision and thereby reduce the need for eyeglasses when engaging in outdoor physical activities. Most likely, he will still need reading glasses to see fine print and the computer screen, as a toric lens does not help with both near and distant vision.
Matthew was never a fan of reading glasses. Therefore, for over 15 years, he has worn monovision contact lenses successfully to provide distance for presbyopia. Monovision lenses correct one eye for distance and one eye for near vision. After his cataract surgery, he would like to continue wearing monovision contacts. However, this is not his only option.
Multifocal lenses can be implanted in both of Matthew’s eyes, thereby giving a sharp focus for both near and distance in both eyes. Alternatively, his eye doctor can implant one lens for distance and one for near – following the monovision method. The best candidates for this option are generally patients who are accustomed to wearing monovision lenses, such as Matthew. The final choice is a personal one, based on his preferences
Jerry has worn eyeglasses since he was a young child, and he is the proud owner of many stylish frames. In addition to providing clear eyesight, Jerry’s eyeglasses function as his trademark fashion accessory.
After cataract surgery, he is a good candidate for basic single focus lens implants. These implants will improve Jerry’s visual acuity without eyeglasses, yet he will still need eyewear to focus well on both distance and near tasks. This option is a great match for his personal preferences.
The type of vision correction you choose after your cataract surgery depends upon your ocular condition, individual lifestyle preferences and the professional recommendation of your eye doctor. Quality vision is the objective of every cataract procedure, and there is more than one way to reach this goal!