What is a Cataract?
A cataract occurs when the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy and interferes with light passing through the eye. Cataracts are a process of aging and usually begin developing around midlife. Approximately 70% of people over the age of 60 and 90% of people over 70 will develop cataracts. The process is generally gradual, and people often do not realize what is happening until they have an eye exam. Common symptoms of cataracts may include blurry vision, glare and reduced vision in bright light, halos around light, poor night vision or fading of colors. Untreated, cataracts are a common cause of blindness.
How is a Cataract Removed?
Modern surgical techniques have made cataract removal one of the safest and most successful surgeries today. The virtually painless procedure takes about 10 minutes and is usually performed in a hospital on an outpatient basis. The eye is anesthetized using eyedrops, and a small incision (about one-eighth of an inch) is made in the white of the eye or through the outer edge of the cornea. An ultrasonic instrument is inserted and used to emulsify, or break up, the cataract and then vacuum away the damaged material. After the cataract has been removed, the surgeon inserts an intraocular lens to replace the natural lens that was removed. The day after surgery you will return for a checkup and your doctor may ask you to return later for one or more follow-up examinations and vision tests. Most patients notice an improvement in their vision during the first few days after surgery.
What is an Intraocular Lens?
An intraocular lens (IOL) is usually implanted during cataract surgery to replace the clouded natural lens that is being removed. A comprehensive eye examination prior to surgery and discussion with your doctor will determine what type, size and power of IOL is needed. The prescription lens implants are made from a flexible plastic that can be folded and inserted into the same small incision used to remove the cataract. The IOL is held in place inside the eye by tiny wires attached to the implant. Once the lens is implanted, it functions similarly to a natural lens and usually is not detectable to the patient.