A Cataract is a common condition. So much so that, by age 80, more than half of all Americans will have developed cataracts or been treated for one.
When our eyes look at an object, light travels through the pupil and is focused through the lens onto the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye, called the retina. A cataract is a clouding of the eye's normally clear lens, making it harder for the lens to properly receive and focus incoming light. When this happens, our ability to see can be drastically reduced.
Cataracts often come with age. The lens is made of mostly water and protein. As years pass, the lens grows more layers on its surface and these layers harden. Protein in the lens can form clumps and become cloudy in areas, forming a cataract. You can also develop cataracts at an earlier age. Previous eye disease or eye surgery, chronic disease, diabetes, and eye injuries are all strongly linked to cataracts and may cause you to develop a cataract well before reaching old age.
There are several symptoms of cataracts. You may experience painless, blurry vision, or faded or yellowed colors. Dr. David Way, of Spring Klein Vision Center in Spring, Texas adds,“There are a number of easily overlooked symptoms of cataracts as well, such as increased difficulty seeing at night or in dim lighting. If you experience symptoms, you should consult your eye care professional for an appointment, and be sure to have regular check-ups after diagnosis.”
Treatment of a cataract varies by severity. In some cases, clouding is minimal and vision is hardly effected. In this case, a slight change in eyeglasses prescription may be enough for now. However, if clouding effects the whole or a large part of the lens, surgery is required. In cataract surgery, the cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced by an artificial lens made of plastic, silicone or acrylic. The surgery is normally done as an outpatient procedure and does not require an overnight stay.
Dr. David Way advises, “You should not underestimate the importance of proper pre- and post-op care. Your optometrist and eye surgeon should be on the same page as to your treatment before and after surgery, to be sure that you are properly taken care of.” A thorough exam should be conducted by your primary eye doctor to diagnose and decide on treatment of your cataract. After this your doctor should be able to advise about the surgery and refer you to a surgeon, who will answer any questions you have about the surgery. Afterwards, follow ups should take place with both your surgeon and your optometrist to assess your recovery.