A cataract is a common condition that causes a clouding of the eye's natural lens, and affects millions of people each year, including more than half of all Americans over the age of 65. Cloudiness develops as a result of a buildup of protein in the lens
Cataracts cause a progressive, painless loss of vision. The lens clouds naturally as we age, causing people over the age of 65 to see a gradual reduction of vision. However, cataracts are not considered part of the natural aging process and are a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention. The exact cause of cataracts is unknown, although it may be a result of injury, certain medications, illnesses (such as diabetes), prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light and smoking.
Your doctor may perform a series of tests in order to diagnose a cataract. A dilated eye exam will be performed to test the vision and to examine the condition of the lens and other parts of the eye. Your doctor may also perform tonometry, a procedure that measures the pressure in the eye.
Patients with cataracts often do not experience any symptoms when the condition first develops. Cataracts will continue to progress with no apparent pain, although patients may experience:
Cataract surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that involves numbing the eyes with anesthesia and then making a tiny incision into which an ultrasonic probe is inserted. The probe breaks up, or emulsifies, the cloudy lens into tiny pieces and then suctions them out of the eye. Once the cloudy lens has been removed, a new artificial lens is implanted into the eye. This lens is known as an intraocular (IOL) lens, and can often be inserted through the same incision that the old lens was removed from.
Cataract surgery usually takes only a few minutes to perform and is painless for most patients. After the procedure, a shield may be placed over the eye and you will be asked to rest for a while. Patients can return home the very same day, but will need someone to drive you home. For the next few days, you may experience itching, mild discomfort, fluid discharge and sensitivity to light and touch. Your doctor may prescribe eye drops to help the healing process and to reduce the risk of infection.
Virtually all health insurance plans cover cataract surgery and traditional implants once the patient's vision drops to a certain level. For certain patients, additional techniques such as Limbal Relaxing Incisions, Astigmatic Lens Implants and Multifocal Lens Implants may be discussed and recommended to provide an optimal visual outcome. Health insurers allow the patient to choose these options and self-pay the additional costs that are incurred in these procedures.
Limbal relaxing incisions are small incisions placed in the cornea (clear front part) of the eye at a precise location and depth to decrease the amount of astigmatism of the eye. It is possible to treat low levels of astigmatism with this technique. These may be placed at the time of cataract surgery or at a later time.
Toric lenses are premium lens implant made available with the correction for astigmatism manufactured into the lens. It is then able to be implanted and rotated in the eye at a specific axis to provide the needed correction. Patients with very high amounts of astigmatism may need both Limbal Relaxing Incisions and an Astigmatic IOL to achieve the best possible post operative correction.
Traditionally, when a cataract develops, the eye lens is replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). The lens is usually focused for distance vision, requiring that the patient need to wear reading glasses or contact lenses to focus in on nearer objects.
Through recent advancements in lens technology, an IOL is now available that can provide the patient with a greater range of vision while reducing the need for glasses and contacts. The ReSTOR intraocular lens provides a full range of functional vision for patients that desire a significant decrease in their dependence on glasses or contacts.