A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens inside the eye.
The most common type of cataract is related to aging of the eye. Other causes include:
- Family history
- Medical problems, such as diabetes
- Medications, especially steriods
- Long-term, unprotected exposure to sunlight
- Previous eye surgery
In a normal eye, light focuses precisely on the retina. In an eye with a cataract, light scatters throughout the eye instead of focusing precisely on the retina.
Depending on the amount and pattern of the cloudiness of the lens, the symptoms of a cataract can vary. The blurred vision caused by a cataract can be compared to looking through a window that is yellowed or dirty.
Other symptoms include:
- Glare, or light sensitivity
- Poor night vision
- Double vision in one eye
- Needing more light to read
- Fading colors
If symptoms of a cataract are not bothersome, there may be no need for treatment. However, most cataracts eventually progress to the point of needing treatment. Surgery is the only treatment for cataracts. Over 1.4 million people have cataract surgery each year in the United States , and more than 95% of those surgeries are performed with no complications.
In most cases, cataract surgery is performed with only topical eye drops, and IV sedation. It is done in an ambulatory surgery center, and the procedure usually takes approximately 10-15 minutes.
The entire procedure is done under a microscope through a micro-incision only 3 millimeters in length. An ultrasound tip is placed into the cataract to break it up and aspirate it. This technique is called phacoemulsification.
The natural lens is then replaced with an artifical lens implant, which is put through the micro-incision and unfolds inside the eye.
YAG Laser Capsulotomy:
Once a cataract is removed, it does not recur. However, in many cases, the capsule that supports the artificial lens may eventually become cloudy. If this occurs, the symptoms of the cataract may return. This can be treated easily with a YAG laser treatment. This is a very simple, low-risk procedure, which takes minutes to perform with no need for anesthesia or post-operative restrictions. The laser is focused directly onto the capsule behind the lens implant to restore vision.
Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness in the world outside the United States. In this country we are fortunate to have excellent treatment for cataracts to prevent blindness. If you have symptoms of a cataract, visit the Northwest Eye Center. After a thorough cataract evaluation, Dr. O’Rourke or Dr. Hathaway will determine if a cataract procedure may help to restore your vision. With many years of experience, our doctors have the knowledge and expertise you can depend on.