A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens of the eye. Light enters the eye and is focused through the front structures onto the retina, the seeing tissue that lines the back of the eye. Near the front of the eye is the lens. The lens is solid with a clear outer covering like a piece of plastic wrap.
The lens can become cloudy causing blurring, glare or halos around lights. The change of the lens from clear to cloudy is a cataract.
Patients with cataracts often do not experience any symptoms when the condition first develops. Cataracts will continue to progress with no apparent pain, although patients may experience:
Blurred or hazy vision
Poor vision in bright light
Seeing halos around lights
Poor night vision
Yellowish tinged vision
Frequent changes in eyeglasses or contact lens prescription
The first treatment for a cataract is a change in glasses. When glasses are no longer able to provide adequate vision for what you need or want to do – such as driving, reading or watching television – the cataract can be removed and replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL) implant.
Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the US, and can be performed quickly and easily with a success rate of over 99 percent and a minimal risk of complications.
Cataract surgery is a minimally invasive procedure often performed at an outpatient surgical center. The surgical procedure takes approximately 15 minutes and there is no stitching or patching of the eye following.
During the procedure, the eye will be numbed with a topical (eye drop) anesthetic and twilight sedative will be given to induce relaxation. The surgery involves making a tiny incision into which an ultrasonic probe is inserted. The probe breaks up, or emulsifies, the cloudy lens into tiny pieces and then suctions them out of the eye. Once the cloudy lens has been removed, an IOL is implanted to focus the eye after surgery.
Over the past decade, femtosecond laser assisted cataract surgery and advanced technology IOLs have become available. Newer IOLs, including astigmatism reducing and multifocals, can customize your vision decreasing spectacle dependence after surgery. Your doctor can discuss the options and recommend a lens best for you based on your lifestyle and vision needs.