A cataract occurs when the lens of the eye becomes thick and cloudy, making it difficult for light to pass through easily, and causing hazy or blurred vision. The amount and pattern of cloudiness within the lens varies from patient to patient. If the cloudiness is not in the center of the lens, and is only around the edges, you may be unaware you have a cataract.
Common Cataract symptoms include:
- A painless blurring of vision
- Glare or light sensitivity
- Frequent eyeglass prescription changes
- Double vision in one eye
- Needing brighter light to read
- Poor night vision
- Fading or yellowing of color
There are many misconceptions about cataracts. A cataract is not:
- A film over the eye
- Caused by over-using the eyes
- A cancer spread from one eye to the other
- A cause of irreversible blindness
Cataracts are most frequently caused by the aging of the eye, and are a common cause of poor vision among the elderly. Other causes of cataracts include:
- Family history
- Medical problems (such as diabetes)
- Injury to the eye
- Medications (such as steroids)
- Long-term, unprotected exposure to sunlight
- Previous eye surgery
Most cataracts caused by aging progress slowly over a period of years. But how quickly a cataract develops varies from patient to patient, and may even vary between a patient's two eyes. Some cataracts, especially in young people and those with diabetes, may progress rapidly over a few months. It is impossible to predict exactly how fast cataracts will develop in any patient.
How is a Cataract Detected?
The presence and extent of a cataract can best be detected with a through exam by your ophthalmologist. It is possible that other problems related to the retina or optic nerve could also be causing some of the blurred vision or discomfort, and your ophthalmologist may look for these as well. If problems are found with your optic nerve or retina, cataract removal may not completely cure your blurred vision, and if damage to the optic nerve or retina is severe enough, cataract removal may not result in any vision improvement. Your ophthalmologist can tell you how much vision improvement you are likely to gain with cataract removal.
If symptoms from a cataract are very mild, a simple change of your glasses prescription may be all you need to function more comfortably. Protection from excessive sunlight, with the help of sunglasses that screen out ultraviolet rays or eyeglasses with a UV coating, may help slow the progression of cataracts. However, there are no medications, dietary supplements, exercises or optical devices that have been shown to prevent or cure cataracts. Surgery is the only option for removing a cataract.
You should consider surgery when your cataracts cause enough loss of vision to interfere with your daily activities. Can you drive safely? Can you see to do your job? Can you read and watch TV in comfort? Can you do your cooking, shopping and yard work without difficulty? These are the questions you must ask yourself if you're considering cataract surgery. Based on your symptoms, and how they interfere with your everyday life, you and your ophthalmologist can decide when cataract removal surgery is appropriate.
Cataracts do not need to be “ripe” before they can be removed. This is a common misconception.
Cataract surgery is usually performed under local anesthesia as an outpatient procedure. The cloudy lens is removed from the eye using a microscope, miniature instruments, and other modern technology. Lasers are not used to remove cataracts. Most often, the removed lens is replaced by a permanent intraocular lens implant that restores the focusing power of the eye. Both multi-focal and mono-focal lenses are available, although Medicare will only cover the cost of the mono-focal lens. Ask your a Chattanooga Eye Institute Representative to explain the differences and help you with the decision.
In approximately one-fifth of all patients, who have cataract surgery, the natural capsule that supports the intraocular lens implant becomes cloudy. In these cases, a laser is used to open the cloudy capsule and restore clear vision.
Cataract surgery is a highly successful procedure, resulting in improved vision in more than 90% of all cases, unless there are other problems with the cornea, retina or optic nerve. More than 1.4 million people have cataract surgery in the United States each year. However, it is important to remember, as with any surgery, complications can occur, and a good result cannot be guaranteed.
As with any eye problem, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about your situation.
After Your Cataract Surgery
-Following surgery, you may resume normal non-strenuous activity. Do not lift anything heavier then 25 pounds for one week. Do not lift anything over 50 pounds for one month.
-Tape the eye shield over your eye each night for 2 weeks following surgery. This is to protect the eye from pressure and rubbing. Sleep on your back or on the side opposite the healing eye.
-Be extremely careful not to rub the eye for 2 weeks.
-You may take baths and wash your hair immediately. If you get something in your eye while bathing, simply wash your eye with antibiotic drops.
- Reading , writing, and watching TV are permitted immediately following surgery.
-Use a cotton ball moistened with water to cleanse your eyelids of crusting and discharge every morning for one week following surgery.
-Use dark sunglasses in bright sunlight.
-You may resume driving when you are comfortable with your vision.
-Resume any regular medications you are taking when you get home from the hospital.
Your Next Appointment:
-Dr. Kirby with see you in the office the day after surgery. The appointment time will be given to you the day of your surgery.
-Please remember to bring all of your eye drops, and eye medications to this visit. Dr. Kirby will tell you when to stop using or decrease these medications.
Common Post-Operative Symptoms
-Blurred vision, or variable vision for the first few days after surgery. You should notice improvements over the first few weeks. If you experience worsening vision, call the office for further instructions.
-Since your eye is changed by surgery, it will most likely be bothersome to wear your glasses until you are fitted with new lenses. This is usually done about two weeks after surgery. You may wear your old glasses without fear of straining or injuring your operated eye.
-After the first 24 hours, your eye should be tender, but not painful. It is common to have a scratching sensation under your upper eyelid. This is part of the healing process and should subside in several days. Itchiness is also common.