A cataract refers to the clouding of the clear lens in the eye. As cataracts progress, they may experience problems such as double vision, difficulty seeing in low light, flashes of light and glare, blurred vision, problems distinguishing colors, and the appearance of “halos” around lights. As we age, cataracts usually develop gradually over time, but they can also occur due to an eye injury or as a side effect of certain medications.

Cataract surgery is a procedure that involves removing the cloudy natural lens in the eye and replacing it with an artificial lens known as an intraocular lens (IOL) to restore clear vision. The two main goals of cataract surgery are to reduce dependence on glasses and improve vision. Cataract surgery is one of the most popular and safest surgeries performed today. Due to advancements in this procedure, cataract surgery can now be performed as an outpatient treatment with minimal recovery time. After cataract surgery, most patients report better vision and quality of life.

Why do cataracts form in the eyes?

Cataracts develop when the proteins in the eye’s lens begin to break down and clump together, clouding the lens. Because of this cloudiness, light cannot flow through the lens properly, causing blurred vision and other visual disturbances. Although aging is the primary cause of cataracts, other changes can also play a role, including genetics, certain medical disorders (including diabetes), trauma to the eye, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, and certain medications. Preventing damage from UV radiation, controlling risk factors, and scheduling regular eye exams can all help with early detection and proper treatment of cataracts.

What age group face problems with cataracts?

Cataracts are a common eye condition that can develop in people of all age groups. However, they are most frequently associated with aging. The risk of cataract development increases with age, particularly in those aged 60 or older. Younger individuals can also develop cataracts due to genetics, medical conditions, or eye injuries. It is crucial for people to be aware of cataract symptoms and get regular eye exams to monitor eye health, regardless of age.

How to Diagnose Cataracts?

Cataracts are diagnosed by an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) through a comprehensive eye exam. The exam will include:

  • Visual Acuity Test – is to see how much you can see at various distances.
  • Slit Lamp Exam – The doctor uses a specific enlarging lens for eye examination. Eye drops are applied to the eye to enlarge the pupil for better future visualization of the back of the eye.
  • Eye Pressure Measurement (Tonometry) – It measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops are employed for this test.
  • Dilated Eye Exam – Drops are instilled into the eyes to dilate the pupil (the opening of the iris) wider so that the doctor can get a better view of the inside of the eye. Due to this, the eye doctor may find some other eye problems in young eyes too such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma.
  • Imaging Tests – Your eye care doctor may suggest imaging tests for the source the of disease. Tests could involve OCT for evaluation of the retina, ultrasound to assess internal eye structures and corneal topography to measure the curvature of the cornea.

Types of Cataract Surgery

  • Traditional Cataract Surgery: In traditional cataract surgery, an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) is used to replace the clouded lens.
  • Phacoemulsification: This is the most common type of cataract surgery in which the cataract is broken up using an ultrasonic probe and then removed.
  • Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery: This surgical procedure utilizes a laser to create incisions and soften the cataract before the traditional removal process.
  • Femtosecond Laser Cataract Surgery: This is an advanced type of laser-assisted cataract surgery that offers enhanced precision and possibly a faster recovery period.
  • Refractive Cataract Surgery: This type of surgery removes the cataract as well as corrects any refractive errors like near-sightedness or farsightedness, using premium intraocular lenses.
  • Intraocular Lens Implantation: In certain cases, a multifocal or convenient IOL can be implanted after surgery to reduce the need for glasses.

It is important to consult with an eye care professional to determine the most suitable type of cataract surgery for your individual needs and overall eye health.

What happens if you don’t treat cataracts on time?

If left untreated, cataracts can gradually worsen and negatively affect your vision and overall quality of life. Untreated cataracts can cause a variety of symptoms such as blurred vision, sensitivity to light, night vision problems, and pale or yellow colors. As the cataract worsens, visual acuity may significantly decrease, making daily activities like reading, driving, and facial recognition more difficult.

What care should be taken after cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, allowing you to return home the same day. After cataract surgery, it’s important to follow these post-operative care instructions:

  • To prevent infection and promote healing, it is essential to use the prescribed eye drops as directed.
  • Do not intentionally touch or rub your eyes to prevent irritation and infection.
  • Wear an eye shield to prevent rubbing or pressing it while sleeping.
  • First few days after surgery do not do heavy activities involving heavy lifting or bending over to avoid straining up muscles.
  • Wear sunglasses to hide your eyes from the bright light and protect them from UV exposure.
  • Attend follow-up appointments as scheduled, to have a medical monitoring of your eye health and progress in your recovery.
  • Please see an ophthalmologist when you experience acute pain, loss of vision or any unusual symptoms.

Following these treatment rules might be helpful towards the recovery period after cataract surgery.

Is there a possibility that Cataracts once treated can occur again?

Although it is uncommon for cataracts to return after successful surgical treatment, cataracts can develop again. This condition is called posterior capsule opacification (PCO), in which the lining at the back of the lens capsule becomes cloudy. This results in blurred vision and sensitivity to glare, which are similar to the symptoms of a cataract.

Fortunately, YAG laser capsulotomy, a quick and painless laser surgery, can treat PCO easily and efficiently. During this surgery, the cloudy posterior capsule is precisely targeted and removed to restore clear vision once again. So, after cataract surgery, it’s important to follow up with your ophthalmologist to monitor for any signs of PCO or other potential problems.

Benefits and Risks of Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is a common and very successful procedure that can greatly improve your vision and quality of life. Some of the benefits of cataract surgery are improved vision, reduced dependence on glasses or contact lenses, and increased ability to perform daily activities like reading and driving.

However, like any surgery, cataract surgery has also risks such as infection, bleeding, swelling and potential complications with anesthesia. It’s crucial to discuss the risks with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision about undergoing surgery.

Before undergoing the procedure, a comprehensive eye examination will be conducted to determine the severity of cataracts and assess overall eye health. Your surgeon will discuss the different options available to you, including the type of intraocular lens (IOL) to be implanted during the surgery.

You may experience some temporary side effects after surgery, such as light sensitivity, blurred vision, and mild discomfort. To guarantee proper treatment and optimal results, it is important to carefully follow your surgeon’s post-operative recommendations.

Results and Outlook

Cataract surgery has a very high success rate for vision recovery. After cataract surgery, more than 90% of patients are reported to have good vision. Most patients see significant improvement in vision within the first week after surgery. It takes approximately 6 weeks to achieve complete healing and stabilization of vision.

After cataract surgery, the chances of restoring vision are quite high and positive. The majority of patients achieve normal vision, with 20/40 or better. With the correct intraocular lens implant, a lot of people can attain 20/20 vision. Patients with pre-existing eye conditions, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration, may experience more varied visual outcomes.

Cataract surgery tends to have better outcomes and fewer risks for younger patients. As one ages, the risks of cataracts increase slightly. Nonetheless, cataract surgery remains highly effective regardless of age. With modern technology and advanced surgical techniques, cataract surgeries have a success rate of over 95% in restoring functional vision. The patients will be pleasantly surprised with the uniformly improved clarity, brightness, contrast, and color perception. It is undoubtedly one of the most gratifying surgeries in medicine.