It’s no secret that cataracts are one of the most common eye conditions, especially for people who are aging or elderly. The NIH reports that more than 50% of Americans by age 80 either have cataracts or have undergone cataract surgeries. Cataracts can significantly reduce your vision and can even cause vision loss. Fortunately, there are a number of advanced surgical procedures that can remove cataracts and restore your vision.
What Are Cataracts?
Inside each of your eyes is a lens. This clear, round structure sits behind your iris — the colored part of your eye — and focuses light onto your retina. When light hits the retina, the cells within the retina send signals to your brain, allowing you to see.
Cataracts happen when the lens inside your eye becomes cloudy, making it difficult for you to see.
Common causes of cataracts include:
- Aging. Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. After age 40, the proteins in your lenses begin to break down, making the lens cloudy.
- Eye injury. Injury to the eye, including eye surgery and radiation to the eye, may increase your risk of developing a cataract.
- Genetics. Those with a family history of cataracts may be more likely to develop cataracts themselves.
- Medical conditions. Certain medical conditions, like diabetes or hypertension, can increase your risk of developing a cataract.
- Other eye conditions. Eye conditions like glaucoma and retinitis can damage the lens and lead to a cataract.
- Overexposure to UV radiation. Exposure to UV radiation, like direct sunlight or tanning beds, damages the proteins in your lenses, making you more likely to develop cataracts.
- Smoking and drinking alcohol to excess. Both smoking and excessive drinking have been linked to an increased risk of cataracts.
- Some medications. Certain medications, such as steroids, can potentially increase your risk of developing cataracts.
How do I Know if I Have Cataracts?
The tell-tale sign of cataracts is visual impairment or loss of vision. Symptoms may include:
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- Faded colors
- Frequently needing to change your eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- Light from things like headlights, lamps, or the sun feels abnormally bright
- Seeing a halo around a bright light or glare
Vision changes can also be a sign of other types of eye problems. Before seeking out treatment for cataracts, make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam with a trusted eye care professional. This exam will allow them to check for common eye problems, including cataracts. During this exam, your doctor may perform tests such as:
- Dilated eye exam to dilate your pupils so your retina and optic nerves, the nerves that carry signals from the retina to the brain, can be examined for damage
- Tonometry to measure the pressure within your eye
- Visual acuity test to measure your vision at various distances
How do Cataracts Change Your Eyes?
The lenses in your eyes are similar to the lenses of a camera. They focus light on the retina at the back of your eye, allowing you to see, and they also adjust the focus so you can see close up and far away.
The lens in an eye is primarily made up of water and protein. As you age, that protein becomes damaged through wear and tear. When the protein breaks down, it can clump together, clouding part of your lens. This clouding blocks light from coming through, obscuring your vision. As time goes on, the clump can grow larger, obscuring more and more of your vision.
What are Some Cataract Treatment Options?
The only way to treat a cataract and prevent severe vision loss is to remove and replace the cloudy lens. The surgical treatment for cataracts has dramatically evolved over the years. Recent innovations in cataract surgery now make it possible for cataracts to be removed and replaced with clean lens implants with greater precision and accuracy.
Laser Cataract Surgery
In traditional cataract surgery, the surgeon uses a surgical blade to make incisions into the eye, allowing them to remove the cataract. Today, lasers can be used to make these incisions. These lasers are designed to improve precision and reproducibility during some of the more challenging and critical steps of cataract surgery, which may contribute to improved surgical outcomes.
The eye surgeon then uses microsurgical instruments to gently dissolve and remove the cloudy lens. Once this is removed, the doctor inserts a small, foldable intraocular lens (IOL). This lens unfolds, becoming the new lens. These intraocular lenses can be either conventional or advanced technology lenses.
Tri-Moxi dropless cataract surgery
After your typical cataract surgery, your doctor will prescribe you eye drops to prevent infection and inflammation. These drops need to be used several times a day for several weeks. This can be frustrating for patients, so one of the latest updates to cataract surgery is the Tri-Moxi, or “dropless,” cataract surgery.
With dropless cataract surgery, the surgeon places the necessary medications inside your eye during the lens replacement procedure before you leave the operating suite. These medications replace the usual eye drops. Barnet Dulaney Perkins can safely and effectively use this option for most patients, which adds convenience and reduces costs for you.
For a long time, the only type of lens available for cataract surgery was a monofocal lens. Monofocal lenses focus your vision from a specific distance, meaning you’ll be able to see clearly from either close up, far away, or somewhere in between. To make up for this, a patient with a monofocal IOL must wear glasses or contact lenses to see clearly from the other focal points.
Today, some patients can choose a multifocal lens for their lens replacement. Multifocal lenses allow the wearer to see clearly from multiple distances thanks to the way the lenses are crafted.
Another option is an accommodating IOL. Like multifocal IOLs, accommodating IOLs let you see from various distances, but the lenses themselves do not offer multiple focusing distances. Instead, the lens allows your eye to change focusing distances the way it did before. Accommodating IOLs typically offer overall clearer vision, but patients may still require reading glasses to see up close.
Not everyone is a candidate for multifocal or accommodating lenses. Speak with your eye doctor to determine the best lens for cataract surgery for you.
Toric interocular lenses
Toric intraocular lenses are a type of corrective lens for people with astigmatism. For people with astigmatism, their cornea, or the clear front covering of the eye, is an abnormal shape. This can cause vision problems that typically require glasses or contacts to fix.
Toric IOLs incorporate unique optics to compensate for specific deficiencies in your vision caused by astigmatism. If you would like to improve your quality of vision further and reduce your dependency on glasses, ask your doctor about astigmatism correction replacement lenses.
Learn More About Cataract Surgery Options
Most patients who have chosen advanced technology lenses are thrilled with their results and would recommend these lenses to their friends and family who have cataracts. Choosing an advanced technology lens is an investment that can help you maintain your standard of living and enjoy good vision during every waking moment for the rest of your life.
Don’t let cataracts rob you of your vision. If you think you have cataracts or a medical eye care professional has confirmed the diagnosis, talk with your eye doctor about the best replacement lens options for you. For a comprehensive eye exam or professional eye care advice, contact Barnet Dulaney Perkins and schedule an appointment.