What is a Cataract?
A cataract occurs when the eye’s natural internal lens, which is normally clear, becomes cloudy. While cataracts can be caused by physical trauma to the eye, as well as certain infections and medications, the most common cause of cataracts by far is age: cataracts are present to some degree in two-thirds of people over 60, and four-fifths of people over 70. Cataracts are a progressive condition, meaning that once the eye’s natural lens begins to cloud, the condition will continue to worsen. In some cases, cataracts progress extremely quickly, in a matter of months, while in others they may take years.
As a cataract progresses, the cloudy lens begins to diffuse light entering the eye, scattering it and preventing it from reaching the retina. The patient experiences this as a loss of vibrant color, glare around light sources (especially at night), and blurry vision that cannot be corrected by a change in eyeglass or contact lens prescription. If a cataract is allowed to develop fully, the lens will become completely opaque, turning white, yellow, or brown and resulting in total blindness. While this is extremely rare in United States, it is still common in developing countries, and cataracts are the leading cause of preventable vision loss worldwide.
How Are Cataracts Treated?
Once a cataract develops to the point that vision is impaired, no medicines, dietary supplements, eye exercises, or corrective lenses can help; the only way to restore good vision is through surgery. While the essence of cataract surgery – removal of the natural lens – has remained the same for centuries, the specific techniques and technologies used have progressed tremendously, leading to a much improved procedure. As recently as the 1970s, cataract surgery involved stitches on the eye and a long, painful recovery, including days of hospital bed rest and months of restrictions on such physical activities as lifting and bending. Possibly worst of all, after surgery cataract patients were dependent for the rest of their lives on “cataract glasses,” which were heavy, uncomfortable, and so thick that peripheral vision was affected. Because of these factors, many patients facing cataract surgery today may remember how worried their parents or grandparents may have been about the procedure.
Fortunately, technological advances have made modern cataract surgery a far more pleasant experience, with much better patient outcomes. The introduction of phacoemulsification (use of ultrasound energy to break up the cataract for removal) led to a procedure that was much gentler on the eye. The development of intraocular lens implants, abbreviated IOLs, to replace the lost refractive power of the natural lens eliminated the need for thick cataract glasses. As phacoemulsification and IOL technology continued to improve, cataract surgery became first a one-stitch, then the no-stitch procedure that it generally is today. The hospital stay and long convalescence of years past have given way to modern cataract surgery, which is an outpatient procedure that has most patients returning to normal activities within a day or two.
Improved Technology, Improved Results
As much as cataract surgery has improved over the last few decades, it continues to advance just as quickly today. The development of multifocal and toric IOLs is helping today’s cataract patients achieve better vision than ever before, while reducing or even eliminating the need for glasses after surgery. The introduction of the ORA System, a intraoperative diagnostic device, gives the surgeon real-time information during surgery, allowing for a level of customization that was previously impossible.
With cataract surgery technology advancing so quickly, it’s important for today’s cataract patient to seek out a surgeon who has access to the most advanced techniques and is experienced in their use. The cataract specialists at Whitsett Vision Group are committed to offering the newest, safest, most effective technology. Our status as a sought-after clinical research center ensures that our surgeons get an early look at new developments in cataract surgery, and allows us to be early adopters of the most promising ones.
If you have questions about cataract surgery, or if you or a family member has been diagnosed with cataracts, please feel free to contact us. We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have, or schedule an examination with one of our board-certified cataract surgeons.
Multifocal lenses are designed to help patients achieve excellent vision up close as well in the distance, reducing or potentially eliminating dependence on glasses after surgery. Our cataract surgeons are proud to offer the Low Add TECNIS® Multifocal. Learn more about this high-tech multifocal implant and the outstanding outcomes it provides.
Cataract patients with significant astigmatism may benefit from a toric IOL. Learn more about how toric IOLs can help patients with astigmatism obtain great vision and reduce dependence on corrective lenses after surgery.
The ORA System is one of the most significant advances in cataract surgery technology this decade, yet many surgeons do not yet offer this revolutionary device. Learn how ORA’s real-time diagnostics allow our cataract surgeons to provide an unparalleled level of customization in cataract and lens replacement surgery.
A traditional monofocal lens implant can be used after cataract surgery to correct your vision at a single distance. Modern monofocal IOLs use aspheric technology to provide excellent contrast sensitivity and high quality of vision in a variety of lighting conditions.