What Do You Know About Cataracts?Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 1:40 am
Cataracts are anything but unusual. It’s estimated that 20 million people over age 40 in the U.S. have cataracts. Want more? By the age of 80, over half of Americans either have a cataract or have already had surgery to correct one. At The Eye Clinic, we diagnose and perform surgery to correct cataracts. Our patients go from cloudy vision to a perfectly focused view of Mt. Hood or the beautiful Portland skyline every day.
The surgery can change a patient’s vision so dramatically, it’s incredible. Here is some information on cataracts, especially since they are such a common eye problem as we age.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts are characterized by clouding of the eye’s natural lens, the transparent film that focuses the images as seen by the eye on the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye. This condition usually occurs when proteins form abnormal clumps in the lens. When these clumps enlarge, they begin to interfere with vision by distorting the passage of light through the lens. The result is an increasing cloudiness that affects vision, especially at night.
What are the causes of cataracts?
The effects of aging, combined with lifelong sun exposure (especially here in the Pacific Northwest where we spend a lot of time outdoors), cause cataracts to develop usually beginning around age 40. The cloudiness progresses slowly, not usually affecting vision until after the age of 60. Other contributing factors to the development of cataracts are smoking, eye trauma, chronic diabetes, radiation treatments, and corticosteroid medications. Cataracts can be congenital, usually due to infection, but those cases are very rare.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Most people with cataracts have had them long before they know it. Once the protein clumps start to become large enough to cloud the vision is when the condition begins to make itself known. There is no pain associated with cataracts. Because the development is very gradual, patients often don’t realize they have cataracts. But when they reach a certain point of development, various symptoms will show themselves: cloudy, blurry vision; double vision; seeing halos around lights; inability to see bright color; increased sensitivity to glare; and distortion, which can be akin to looking at the world through a dirty window.
What is the treatment for cataracts?
People think of “treating” cataracts, but there really isn’t any treatment. The only remedy is to have the clouded natural lens surgically removed and replaced with an intraocular artificial lens. The impact the cataract is having on your vision is usually the deciding factor. When everyday actions like driving at night and recognizing faces becomes difficult, it is time to opt for surgery with the team at The Eye Clinic P.C. If you have cataracts in both eyes, the surgery is performed separately for each eye, allowing the first eye to recover with its new lens before removing the second bad lens. The second surgery will usually follow two to four weeks after the first. While this sounds daunting, recovery is relatively easy.
Surgery and afterwards
Cataract surgery is typically an outpatient procedure performed under local anesthesia. The procedure often takes no longer than 10 minutes to perform. Then, you will recover for 30 minutes or so and be taken home (you can’t drive yourself) with a pair of dark sunglasses to protect your eye from bright light. At home you will wear a protective shield over your eye when you sleep.
Many patients report clear vision within several hours after cataract surgery, but everyone heals differently. It can take a week or two to really see things in the sharpest focus. Until then, there can be some blurry vision, as your eye adjusts to the removal of the cataract and the intraocular lens that replaced it. There is not usually any pain associated with recovery.
You’ll be amazed at the difference in your vision. The new intraocular lenses available at The Eye Clinic can now handle conditions such as astigmatism and can have multi-focal lengths.
When you’re ready to quit looking through that cloudy window, it’s time to call the team at The Eye Clinic P.C. 503-297-4718 in St. Vincent, 503-228-6681 in Portland.