Everything You Need to Know About Cataracts
- Posted on: Jan 10 2016
Cataracts will affect the majority of us as we age, so it is important to know and be able to recognize the symptoms of cataracts. This condition is the leading cause of vision loss for people over 40, and is also the leading cause of blindness worldwide. There are over 22 million Americans who are currently affected by cataracts, but this number is estimated to increase to over 30 million by the year 2020.
Because cataracts affect so many people, the eye care industry is working hard to find more and better treatment options for cataracts. Our physicians at Cornea Consultants of Albany have been performing cataract surgery for decades using state of the art technology that both repairs and improves our patients’ sight.
What is a Cataract?
Cataracts form when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, distorting vision and making it hazy and blurred. The lens of the eye is a small clear part of the outer eye that sits behind the iris and pupil and focuses incoming light onto the retina (a section of the back of the eye). When the lens is clear, incoming light comes through the pupil and is focused by the lens to hit the retina correctly. The retina sends this information to the brain to create the image that you see; however, when the lens becomes clouded less light can reach the back of the eye and the brain cannot make out a clear image.
As the eye ages naturally, there is an increased amount of proteins that build up in the center of the lens and blocklight from passing through. These proteins are pushed toward the center of the eye as new lens cells generate, which is why the cataract is concentrated in the middle of your eye. While we can repair cataracts and correct your vision, it is important to catch them as early as possible in order to make treatment a smooth and efficient process.
Cataracts begin to form slowly, so the symptoms of cataracts will be subtle at the beginning. As the cataract begins to grow, the following symptoms will become much more evident:
Foggy, hazy, or blurry vision: As the build-up of proteins block more light from passing through your lens, you will notice these symptoms more.
Colors appearing dull or yellowish: This may be difficult to notice, so be on the lookout for color changes in the things you look at daily.
Squinting: Cataracts can cause excessive glare when in the sun or around bright lights. This glare is also noticeable as halos around headlights or lampposts, especially when driving at night.
Decreased night vision: You may notice it becoming more difficult to read or see what you are doing at night.
Seeing double: This is when your vision is distorted enough that your brain creates two similar images that you see.
Improvement in nearsightedness: Even though your farsightedness may get worse, your nearsighted vision could improve. This phenomenon is known as “second sight.”
Frequent changes to your prescription: Ask your ophthalmologist if cataracts could be causing these changes.
If any of the above symptoms apply to you, you should make an appointment with the Cornea Consultants as soon as possible to see if cataracts could be causing these symptoms. You will be more likely to catch cataracts at their onset if you maintain frequent and regularly scheduled eye appointments.
Who is most likely to get cataracts?
While cataracts are most often a symptom of the eye aging (over half of Americans over the age of 65 will experience vision loss from cataracts) there are other factors that could increase your risk:
Diabetes: higher blood sugar may create an imbalance in the proteins on your lens
Excessive sun exposure unprotected from UV radiation
Health conditions: high blood pressure and obesity can also create an imbalance in the
Steroid use (especially long-term)
Genetics: let your ophthalmologist know if your family has a history of cataracts
Prior injuries or surgeries
If even just one of these risk factors pertains to you, tell us so we can be sure to watch extra carefully for the development of cataracts.
There are a few tests we will use to determine if cataracts are the reason for your vision loss. These tests will also help us decide which course of treatment will be best for your individualized needs. The first step is a dilated eye exam, which not only helps determine how much of your vision has been lost due to cataracts, but also tells us if there are other issues, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma that could be contributing to vision loss. If more than one condition is affecting your vision, our doctors will work together to help treat all conditions in just one procedure.
To repair your sight, we remove the diseased lens and replace it with a replacement lens called an intraocular lens, or an IOL. Think of an IOL like a permanent contact lens that sits behind the pupil and once again correctly focuses incoming light onto the retina. IOLs are made out of a special plastic that can remain in your eye safely for the rest of your life.
We offer different types of IOLs to best suit your lifestyle. IOLs can correct a variety of vision problems, allowing you to see at a range of distances from near to far. We’ll work with you to determine the best IOL for your needs. Click here to read about the different replacement lenses we offer.
Before the surgery you will be given a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable for the duration of the procedure. Your surgeon will begin by making a tiny incision (only 3 millimeters) in your eye, and then use a microscopic instrument to break up the cataract using ultrasound while removing the fragments. Once the cloudy lens is removed, the intraocular lens is inserted through the same tiny incision and set into its permanent position. The incision is so small that it can heal quickly on its own—no sutures required!
Today, recent innovations have made it possible for us to remove cataracts using a similar laser to the one used during LASIK procedures. The laser utilizes a beam of light to make the necessary incisions for cataract surgery and an advanced computer-guidance system directs the laser over the eye to provide accurate results for each patient. The combination of our surgeon’s experience and skills with this state-of-the-art technology produces extraordinary results.
We see patients every day who are suffering from loss of vision due to cataracts. Our goal at Cornea Consultants of Albany is to make sure every one of our patients is seeing the world without any impairment. If you think cataracts are affecting your vision, do not hesitate to make an appointment so we can help you see perfectly again.
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