The term cataract refers to the clouding of the normally transparent crystalline lens of the eye. This lens is located behind the pupil and focuses light onto the retina in the back of the eye so that we can see clearly.
The word cataract comes from the Greek word for waterfall. It was thought that a cataract was formed by opaque material flowing, like a waterfall, into the eye. Cataracts are actually formed as a result of aging, injury, ultraviolet light, drugs, systemic and ocular disease. People with cataracts and blurred vision often find that their everyday activities like driving, reading, watching TV and even walking become increasingly difficult. To improve their quality of life, cataract surgery can restore the ability to perform these activities.
What Is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the normally transparent lens of the eye. As the lens becomes increasingly opaque, light rays entering the eye are prevented from focusing on the retina, the light sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. Symptoms include blurred vision, sensitivity to light and glare, distortion, and dimming of colors and vision.
Types of Cataracts
There are mainly three types of cataract. A nuclear cataract occurs in the center of the lens. This type is the most common form of cataract and is associated with the natural aging process.
The cortical cataract begins with spoke-like formation extending from the outside of the lens into the center. When the spokes reach the center, blurring and glare result in loss of vision. Diabetics commonly develop this type of cataract.
A subcapsular cataract develops very slowly and starts at the back of the lens. Symptoms may not appear until the opacity is well developed. Subcapsular cataracts are often found in patients with diabetes, high myopia, retinitis pigmentosa, and people taking steroids for extended periods.
How are Cataracts Diagnosed?
Your eye doctor will perform a thorough examination of your eyes. Glare testing and contrast sensitivity tests are sometimes used. There is no single objective test to determine a need for cataract surgery. The final decision for cataract surgery is made by the patient and depends on how much the decreased vision from the cataract is bothersome.
How can a Cataract be Treated?
At first, a change in your eyeglass prescription may be all that is needed. This may improve your vision temporarily. There are no medications or eye drops that will cause cataracts to disappear. When you are unable to do the things you like doing, or you are unable to pass your drivers license exam, cataract surgery should be considered. Cataracts can only be removed with surgery.
How Successful is Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery has an overall success rate of over 99 percent at Southeastern Eye Center.
What about pre-existing conditions?
Even with successful cataract surgery your eye may not see as well as you would like. Other problems like macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetes may limit vision after surgery. Even with such problems cataract surgery may be beneficial. If your eyes are healthy, the chances of restoring good vision following cataract surgery are excellent.
How is the surgery done?
After drops are used to numb the eye, a small, less than 3mm, incision is made. Special microsurgical instruments are used to break up and suction the lens fragments from the eye (phacoemulsification). The back portion of the lens capsule is left in place and polished for clarity. A small foldable intraocular lens will be inserted through the wound and unfolded in place of the natural lens. The incision is self-sealing so that no stitches are needed.
Are there any restrictions after surgery?
After surgery you may return to your normal activities. You may bend, stoop over, go up and down stairs, watch TV, read or work in the garden as usual. You may take showers and shampoo your hair. However, the most important instruction to remember is DO NOT RUB YOUR EYE for at least one week after surgery, and do not go swimming for two weeks after surgery.
What about appointments after surgery?
You will be seen by one of our Doctors the day after surgery. An appointment will then be made for you two weeks and then two months from your surgical date.