Cataracts

Imagine what your vision would be like if your eyes were covered by a sheet of wax paper. For millions of Americans with cataracts, this is how their world appears everyday. Dull colors, blurry images-it's as if a film needs to be removed from the eyes to restore clear vision.

Cataracts are a clouding or discoloring within the lens of the eye. The clouded lens distorts and blocks the passage of light through the eye to the retina, causing vision to be dull, blurred, and indistinct. While cataracts can affect people of any age, they are most common in older adults. In fact, two-thirds of all adults over age 60 have some sign of cataract formation. Although most people will eventually develop cataracts, there is good news. When diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, cataracts do not cause permanent damage to the eye.

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No one knows exactly what causes cataracts, but it is known that a chemical change occurs within your eye to cause the lens to become cloudy. This may be due to advancing age, heredity or an injury or disease. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, cigarette smoking or the use of certain medications are also risk factors for the development of cataracts.

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Although cataracts develop without pain or discomfort, there are some indications that a cataract may be forming. These include blurred or hazy vision, the appearance of spots in front of the eyes, increased sensitivity to glare or the feeling of having a film over the eyes. A temporary improvement in near vision may also indicate formation of a cataract.

Cataracts are classified as one of three types:

  • A nuclear cataract is most commonly seen as it forms. This cataract forms in the nucleus, the center of the lens, and is due to natural aging changes.

  • A cortical cataract, which forms in the lens cortex, gradually extends its spokes from the outside of the lens to the center. Many diabetics develop cortical cataracts.

  • A subcapsular cataract begins at the back of the lens. People with diabetes, high farsightedness, retinitis pigmentosa or those taking high doses of steroids may develop a subcapsular cataract.

The type of cataract you have will affect exactly which symptoms you experience and how soon they will occur. When a nuclear cataract first develops it can bring about a temporary improvement in your near vision, called "second sight." Unfortunately, the improved vision is short-lived and will disappear as the cataract worsens. Meanwhile, a subcapsular cataract may not produce any symptoms until it's well-developed.

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When symptoms begin to appear, you may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses, strong bifocals, magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids.

Think about surgery when your cataracts have progressed enough to seriously impair your vision and affect your daily life. Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision.

Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. In fact, it is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States, with over 1.5 million cataract surgeries done each year. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision, somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40. During surgery, the surgeon will remove your clouded lens, and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens.

Micro-incision cataract surgery is the latest technology in cataract surgery. It is a micro-incisional stitch less operation where a cataract is emulsified by ultrasound energy, liquefied, and then sucked through a phacoemulsifier probe. Then a foldable intra-ocular lens is implanted in the eye permanently.

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It is the least traumatic form of cataract surgery with early rehabilitation and recuperation. Vision restoration is possible in a short period of time.


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