It’s not uncommon for certain health conditions to crop up once we reach a certain age. Your eyes certainly are not immune to this effect of aging.
According to the Kellogg Eye Center at the University of Michigan, by the age of 65, over 90 percent of people will have a cataract.
Here we will discuss what a cataract is, how it can affect your vision and what can be done to treat it successfully and restore your vision.
The Facts About Cataracts
A cataract is a clouding of your eye’s lens. The reason this is an issue as we get older is because aging causes protein in your eye to break down and eventually clouds the eye’s lens. The effects of a cataract aren’t quick—in fact, some may not even realize they have one for some time since it grows slowly and may not affect vision early on.
If you have a cataract, you may experience:
- A decrease in clear vision that can’t be corrected with glasses.
- A faded appearance to colors.
- Light sensitivity.
Unfortunately, the effects of a cataract cannot be corrected with eyeglasses, contacts or procedures like LASIK. But the good news is that it is treatable with an outpatient procedure that can be done by your ophthalmologist.
Though this may sound overwhelming or frightening, modern cataract surgery usually can restore most vision loss to cataracts.
What Is Cataract Surgery?
Removing and replacing your clouded lens is the only effective way to treat a cataract. During this low-risk procedure, your cataract surgeon will remove the lens on the inside of your eye that has become cloudy and replace it with an artificial lens (called an intraocular lens or IOL) to make your vision clear once again.
While this may sound like an intense procedure, it is typically performed on an outpatient basis, which means you aren’t required to stay overnight in a hospital or clinic. In fact, the procedure is so fine tuned that it can usually be performed within 15 minutes.
Most cataract surgeries involve the use of a procedure called phacoemulsification or “phaco,” which uses a high-frequency ultrasound device to break the cloudy lens into small pieces that are then gently removed from the eye through suction.
Your surgeon will place an IOL behind the iris and pupil where your natural lens once was. Your procedure then will be completed by closing the small incision in your eye. To protect your eye during the early stages of healing, you will be instructed to wear a protective shield.
Time for Recovery
Recovery after cataract surgery is actually pretty quick and easy thanks to modern medicine and its advancements in this area.
After the procedure, you will spend about an hour in a recovery room as you wait for the effects of anesthesia to wear off. You will need assistance getting home, but once there, your priority is to keep your eye and its incision site from getting infected. You will need to keep water out of your eye and use eye drops several times a day to keep it clean.
You can resume your daily activities, but you should avoid heavy lifting or any kind of exercise that might jar the new lens. You will be fine to read or watch TV by the day after surgery to try out the new, clear vision you now have.
When Is It Time for Cataract Surgery?
Since having cataracts is not a life-threatening situation, the decision on when to have surgery is usually one that can be made through discussions with your ophthalmologist. Some delay surgery until they feel like their vision has been affected enough that it is impeding some activities.
If your doctor determines that you have cataracts in both eyes, they may recommend operating on the eye with the worst cataract first. Once your first eye has healed and your vision is stable, you can go ahead with the second surgery.
If you’ve noticed any changes in your vision, it’s always a good idea to talk to your ophthalmologist to get to the root of the problem. If you are over a certain age and develop the symptoms listed above, you may need to be examined for cataracts.