A cataract is a clouding of the normally-clear lens in your eye. Though painless, cataracts can blur your vision by restricting the amount of light that enters your eye. In addition to hazy vision, indications of cataracts include unusual glare, poor night vision, and a change in how your eyes perceive colors.
In a healthy eye, the iris (the colored part of the eye) regulates the amount of light that enters the eye through the pupil. The light passes through the lens, where it is focused onto the retina at the back of the eye. Signals are then sent from the retina to the brain via the optic nerve, where they are translated into the images you see.
An eye with a cataract functions normally except that the lens has grown cloudy. Light enters the eye as usual, but the clouded lens disperses the light, causing the retina to have difficulty transmitting a clear image. Therefore, because the light that the retina receives is patchy, the retina's transmissions to the brain are also affected, resulting in hazy, blurred vision.
Most people's lenses will naturally become at least a bit cloudy as they age, and because cataracts tend to develop slowly, surgery may not be immediately necessary. But when your ability to read, drive, or carry out other normal activities is hindered, cataract surgery will likely be the best possible solution.
During surgery, the doctor will begin by making an incision on the eye in order to remove the clouded lens, which will then be replaced by a new artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). The implant will not change the outward appearance of your eye, but it can drastically improve your vision.
When removing the cataract, the doctor will use one of two standard methods. Phacoemulsification uses ultrasound to break the lens into pieces for removal through a small incision, while extracapsular extraction involves removing the entire lens at once through a large incision. Our doctors use the most advanced form of small incision phacoemulsification technology. The incision is made either at the far edge of the cornea or in the sclera (the white of the eye), and is also used for the placement of the implant. Small incisions tend to heal quickly and usually do not require stitches, but a large incision will need stitches to ensure that it closes and heals properly.
The exact shape and size of each implant varies from eye to eye, but all are held in place by small flexible loops called haptics that are attached to the lens. Implants are intended to last a lifetime, and are made of materials like silicone and acrylic that will not irritate your eye.
Once your eye has completely healed following the surgery, your vision should be clearer, though you may still need glasses to optimize your vision. There is also a possibility that, down the road, a secondary cataract will form. This occurs when the capsule that holds the new lens becomes cloudy. In such cases, a laser treatment (YAG capsulotomy) is used to make a small opening in the capsule, which clears up your vision by allowing more light to enter. This treatment takes just a few minutes to perform.
So how do you know if you have cataracts? The most important step is to visit your eye doctor so that he or she can evaluate your vision. This exam will generally include vision tests, an eye exam, and a review of your medical history to uncover any other vision problems you may have. If you are found to have cataracts, there are many surgical options to remove the clouded lenses and restore your vision that we specialize in here at Vance Thompson Vision.
When considering cataract surgery, it is important to go to a center that offers the following implant options and can discuss which implant best matches your lifestyle.
Standard lens implants have been used for many years and are both effective and inexpensive. However, they have no ability to provide vision at more than one distance. Patients who select a standard implant still need to wear corrective lenses for most activities like driving or reading.
Aspheric lens implants have been specially designed to reduce glare and visual disturbances occasionally noticeable with standard lens implants. These cost slightly more than a standard lens implant, so your insurance may not cover the entire cost of this lens. Patients who desire the best possible distance vision after cataract surgery may consider this option.
An accommodating lens implant is one that can focus at variable distances. It has the ability to shift position in the eye and change focus points, just as your natural lens did when you were young. This often allows for very good distance and near vision without corrective lenses. Because of the nature of this lens implant, there is an additional cost to you beyond what your insurance would normally pay. If you are interested in a lens implant that will minimize your need for glasses after surgery, ask about the Crystalens accommodating intraocular lens.