What is a cataract?

A cataract is a cloudiness in the eye’s natural lens; the lens lies between the front and back areas of the eye.

Is it true that cataracts are only found in older people?

About 50% of the general population has a cataract by the age of 65; just about everyone over the age of 75 has at least one cataract. In very rare cases, infants can have congenital cataracts. These, however, are usually related to the mother having German measles, chicken pox or some other infectious disease during her pregnancy. Cataracts can also be hereditary.

I was diagnosed with cataracts but my doctor wants to “wait” to treat them. Why?

Cataracts start very small typically and are practically unnoticeable; they will gradual grow larger, and when they begin to interfere with your vision and lifestyle, then it is time to remove them. You should visit your eye doctor regularly so he/she can monitor the progress of the cataracts. Some never reach the stage where they need to be removed, but when they make driving and everyday tasks difficult, surgery may be indicated.

How are cataracts removed? Is the surgery dangerous?

All surgery involves some risks including infection, bleeding, etc. However, the good news is that cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery in the United States each year, and most cataract surgeons have performed literally thousands of these procedures.

Your cataract surgeon will make a small incision and will either remove the lens as is, or he/she will use an ultrasound, laser, or surgical solution to break up the lens and then remove it. The back membrane of the lens is left in place, and, usually, a replacement lens called an intraocular lens (or IOL) is inserted.

Will I have to wear glasses after cataract surgery?

These days, patients who have IOLs implanted during cataract surgery may need reading glasses for close-up vision but for nothing else. In the past, patients had to wear very thick glasses after cataract surgery; thankfully, advances in technique and technology have eliminated the need for those unsightly thick glasses.

What advice would you give people as to why it is important to schedule regular eye exams to check for glaucoma and cataracts?

Dr. Paul Cutarelli, of Cutarelli Vision in Denver, CO, offers this answer:

“Regular yearly eye exams are recommended to evalurate for cataracts and glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the optic nerve is damaged by age, eye pressure, genetics, ocular malformations and other causes. This results in loss of vision in the peripheral visual field; over time this loss of vision progresses to the center of the visual field. Eye drops can often slow or halt the progression of glaucoma and optic nerve damage. Lasers and surgery can also be performed. Optic nerve damage due to glaucoma almost always begins silently. Like high blood pressure, glaucoma is a silent killer, but of optic nerves and vision. Regular yearly eye exams can very often detect glaucoma in its earliest stages, before visual loss has become severe. Visual loss from glaucoma is often permanent so prevention is advised.

Cataracts are the most common cause of treatable blindness in the world. Cataract is a Greek word for ‘cloudy lens.’ In your eye there is a lens, called the crystalline lens. It is approximately the size, shape and thickness of a Plain M & M Candy, but it is made of a clear gelatin substance, mainly comprised of protein. With cataract, that clear gelatin-like substance becomes opaque or cloudy. The symptoms that result from this cataract are blurred vision, poor night vision, glare, light sensitvity especially to car headlights, loss of contrast, and skipping of letters while reading. Cataract surgery is perhaps the most successful of all outpatient surgeries. No stitches, no needles, no shots and no patches are typically used in this 10 minute surgery. The cataract is gently emulsified using microvibrating ultrasound technology through a small incision typically measuring less than 2.5 mm. A small lens made of acrylic or collamer is implanted in the eye in typical cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is a great opportunity to restore vision, and to choose a customized lens implant with customized features for you. That lens implant can eliminate the need for reading glasses by restoring reading and computer vision. Astigmatism and glasses can be nearly eliminated with a small lens implanted at the time of cataract surgery. Your annual eye exam with your ophthalmologist will reveal if you have cataracts. Cataract surgery is an opportunity to change your vision for the better. “

Please contact us for more information about IOL technology or to speak with an experienced cataract surgeon in your area.