A cataract is the clouding of the normally clear, natural crystalline lens of the eye. The lens is composed of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a highly organized pattern that allows light to pass through it with minimal distortion. As a result, the lens appears virtually clear. The lens can become cloudy (see Causes of Cataracts), blocking or scattering some light and preventing it from reaching the retina in sharp focus. This causes blurred vision and glare. Most cataracts progress slowly over a period of years, but their rate of progression is unpredictable. They can affect one eye or both eyes.
Treatment of Cataracts - Cataract Surgery
At present the only treatment for a cataract is surgical removal. Fortunately, there have been tremendous advances in cataract surgery in the past several years. The chance of recovering good vision after surgery is now excellent, although complications can occur in one to three percent of patients. There is remarkably very little discomfort after cataract surgery.
The most common method of cataract removal is Phacoemulsification. In this technique a tiny vibrating ultrasonic probe creates high energy sound waves that break the cataract into smaller particles. These particles are gently suctioned out of the eye. Using a small incision speeds up healing after surgery.
The preferred method to restore vision for nearly all of our patients after cataract removal is to implant an intraocular lens implant into the eye at the time of surgery. This clear artificial implant is placed in the eye behind the iris and pupil in the same position as the natural lens, and it stays in the eye permanently.
Implanting an intraocular lens adds little additional risk to the surgery. Recent developments in the intraocular lens industry have now provided us with multifocal lenses that allow patients to see distance as well as near vision without glasses. Patients now have a number of lens options to choose from. Patients who have certain unusual eye conditions might not be good candidates for intraocular lens implantation. We will discuss this with you when planning your surgery.
Benefits of cataract surgery
In the mid- and late 1990s, numerous medical studies were conducted to help us understand how cataract surgery affects the quality of life of older people. One study, conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, found that patients who had cataract surgery enjoyed an improvement in their quality of life, reflected in their driving skills, community activities, home activities, and mental health.