Important Facts About Cataracts and Cataract Surgery

Cataract Facts

• A cataract is a cloudy or opaque area in the normally transparent lens of the eye. As the opacity thickens, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. There are different types of cataracts:
√ Age-Related Cataract - As the body ages, the lens grows and adds layers, hardening and losing transparency.
√ Developmental Cataract can occur in children, and may be hereditary or associated with a birth defect, or with no apparent cause.
√ Secondary Cataract may be caused by other eye diseases, chronic conditions, prolonged steroid use, or previous eye surgery.
√ Traumatic Cataract may be caused by eye injury. These may appear immediately after the injury, or develop later.
• Cataracts are very common; in fact, by age 75, almost everyone can expect to have a cataract. Others with specific risk factors, such as eye trauma or other eye conditions (see "Types"above) may be likely to develop cataracts.
• Cataracts are a significant cause of blindness in some parts of the world, but fortunately, technological advances and the availability of new procedures mean that for most Americans, vision isn't lost.
• Symptoms include: sensitivity to light and glare, difficulty driving at night, dull color perception, vision distortion or "ghost" images, painless blurring or dimming of vision, frequent eyeglass prescription changes.
• It is uncertain what can prevent the development of a cataract. Some steps which may help:
√ Regular eye exams by your eye care provider. Your doctor is specially trained to detect many vision-threatening conditions even before you develop symptoms. The earlier problems are detected, the better the chance of preventing vision loss.
√ Protection from UV-A and UV-B rays. Some studies have suggested that prolonged or frequent exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays may be a factor in cataract and other eye conditions, so always wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100% of UV rays when outdoors.
√ If cataracts are not interfering with your lifestyle and the things you like to do, you may choose not to treat them. If you experience vision problems that affect your lifestyle, your eye care provider may suggest cataract surgery.
• There are no medications, eye drops, exercises or glasses that will make a cataract disappear. Cataracts can only be removed surgically.

Cataract Surgery Facts

• Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgical procedure in the U.S., with more than 1.4 million people having cataract surgery each year. It is usually covered by insurance, including Medicare.
• As with any surgery, there is always the risk of complications, however eye care providers agree that cataract surgery in the U.S. is a very safe operation.
• Not only is it the most frequently performed surgery in the United States, cataract surgery is also one of the most successful. Over 90 percent of the people who have cataract surgery regain useful vision.
• The most common type of cataract surgery performed in the U.S. is phacoemulsification, usually done as an outpatient procedure under topical (eye drops) and local anesthesia. In this procedure, the surgeon makes a tiny incision through which he or she removes the cloudy lens. The lens is usually replaced with a permanent artificial lens implant (intraocular lens or IOL) at the time of surgery. Stitches are rarely necessary; if used, they will usually dissolve naturally.
• Contrary to what you might have heard, lasers are not currently used to remove cataracts. In some cases, the area behind the IOL can become cloudy months or years after surgery. Your eye care provider can use a laser to create a clear area and improve vision.
• Although it is very safe and effective, cataract surgery is surgery and you need to consider carefully if it is right for you. Sometimes, a cataract may not affect your vision significantly enough to need surgery.
• Contrary to popular myth, a cataract does not have to be "ripe" before it is removed. You should consider having surgery if cataracts make it hard for you to see well enough to do the things you enjoy. Talk to one of our doctors if cataracts are interfering with your lifestyle.
• Delay in timing of cataract surgery can increase the risk of surgical complications.