What You Should Know About Cataracts

Most people have heard of cataracts and understand that they are related to vision and one’s eyes, but don’t really know the specifics of the condition. Cataracts are build ups of proteins in one’s eyes, specifically the lens of the eyes, making the eye cloudy and hampering vision.

Cataracts are usually an age-related condition, typically affecting those who are sixty years of age or older.  However, there are different types of cataracts and not all are related to age.

    • Age Related Cataracts: The most common form of cataracts.  The protein buildup occurs over time and stops light from entering your eye and hampers vision.

    • Congenital Cataracts: Cataracts in the eyes of infants.  Infants can be born with congenital cataracts and are typically caused by damage or infection while in the womb.  Congenital cataracts also cover cataracts that occur in the eyes of children.

    • Secondary Cataracts: These are types of cataracts caused by other medical conditions. Diabetes is a common cause of secondary cataracts.  Secondary cataracts can also be caused by toxic or harmful substances or as a side effect of some medicines.

    • Traumatic Cataracts: The result of any direct injury to the eye. There are several other risk factors for developing cataracts in addition to age.  Prolonged exposure to UV light can lead to the development of cataracts, as well as heavy smoking and drinking.

Early Warning Signs of Cataracts

Aside from foggy or cloudy eyes, some early warning signs of cataracts are the following:

      • Blurred vision (or cloudy or foggy vision)

      • Double vision

      • Problems with glare at night and/or during the day

      • Perception of color changing

      • Nearsightedness

If you suspect you may be suffering from cataracts you will need to be diagnosed with them to start receiving treatment. Check with your eye doctor.  They will administer an eye exam and check your eyes for any protein build ups or clouding.  Fortunately, cataracts are usually fairly easy to diagnose and treat. Many instances of cataracts are correctable with glasses or even contacts, but cataracts can cause problems with vision aids. If vision aids are not suitable treatment options, there is another option, cataract surgery.

What to Expect with Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is typically an "outpatient procedure." Outpatient procedures do not require lengthy hospital stays and you are generally discharged to go home on the same day of your surgery. Cataract surgery involves the removal of the faulty lens in your eye and total replacement with a man-made lens.

Cataract surgeries are generally only recommended if the cataract is interfering in your daily life activities. However, sometimes cataracts may make it difficult for you doctor to treat other eye problems you may have. If this is the case your doctor may recommend cataract surgery. If the cataracts make examining or operating on other eye issues difficult or impossible, you may need to get cataract surgery first. Fortunately, cataract surgery is incredibly safe, and a very common procedure. 

However, if you are unsure if you need cataract surgery or want to do more research, waiting to get the surgery is not usually a problem, as the cataracts will not usually cause damage to your eye. Of course, if you have other eye issues you may need treatment as soon as possible. As with all medical issues, be sure to consult your doctor about treatment options.

There are some risks associated with cataracts and cataract surgery, as with any surgery. The common cataract surgery risks are inflammation, infection, bleeding, swelling, retinal detachment, and even potential loss of vision. If you have any history of eye disease or other ocular complications your risk may be higher. A cataract surgery is usually safe, but understanding the risks and complications is important for any medical procedure. 

Before surgery your doctor will outline the various preparations, you need to make to ensure you have the best chances at a favorable outcome with little to no complications. Before the procedure (about a week in advance) your doctor will run a procedure designed to measure your eye to find the right size and shape of artificial lens. The artificial lens, also known as an IOL or intraocular lens, helps improve your vision. You will not feel the lens in your eye. 

For the procedure, which usually lasts an hour or less, the cloudy lens is removed and the IOL is implanted. After the surgery you may find your vision improving immediately and over the following few days. You will have regular follow ups with your doctor after the surgery to ensure that everything is healing normally and your vision improving. Cataract surgery is a great way to restore your vision and get your life back to a state of vibrance and clarity. Talk with your doctor about cataracts and cataract surgery and find out what options you have.