Like developing gray hair and wrinkles, cataract formation is inevitable as we all get older. As proteins constantly build on the natural lens of the eye throughout our lives, that same lens gradually becomes more dense and opaque, which is what we call a cataract. Therefore, cataract development due to aging is a slow process. Although the main cause of cataracts is aging, there are several other causes including Diabetes Mellitus, certain medications such as steroids/prednisone (used for asthma, arthritis, or inflammation), trauma, previous eye surgery, and various metabolic diseases. In fact, people with diabetes tend to get cataracts at a much younger age than those without the disease, especially if the glucose levels are elevated. In addition, people who chronically take steroids can develop cataracts very quickly (over months).
Possible Cataract Symptoms
As cataracts develop, it becomes more difficult to see clearly. In fact, most people say that they are looking through a “fog” or through a dirty windshield, with no improvement even with new glasses. In addition, people experience glare and halos from bright lights (street lights and head lights), making night driving challenging. As cataracts are slow growing, the vision subtly and gradually worsens making it difficult for the patient to realize that their vision is indeed worsening. In fact, when they have their cataracts removed, they realize how badly their vision was affected, as they begin to see colors and images more vividly.
Most common cataract symptoms include:
- Blurry vision
- Seeing double
- Seeing colors as faded or slightly yellow tinted
- Being extra sensitive to light
- Trouble seeing at night
Treatment for Cataracts
The one and only treatment for cataracts is surgery, where the natural lens of the eye is removed and replaced by a man-made intraocular lens (IOP), which can be especially fitted for the patient’s eye. The IOP acts as a contact lens specific for the patient’s prescription, if you will. What that means is that the cataract surgery not only removes the cataract (the haze and the glare), but reverses the need for glasses and contacts.
Intraocular lenses (IOP) that can be used include the traditional Monofocal lenses, which can correct nearsightedness or farsightedness. Other lenses available and work extremely well are Toric lenses, which not only correct near and farsightedness, not also correct astigmatism. The last type of lenses available are the Multifocal lenses, which correct far and near vision, making the patient less dependent (not completely free) on glasses all day long as long as he/she has appropriate lighting for reading. People generally get the Monofocal lenses or the Toric lenses, which deem them free of using glasses for distance vision.
For those individuals who have worn glasses for the majority of their lives, they now become independent of glasses for driving and so on, although they still need them for reading. Although not all patients qualify for the Multifocal lenses, those who get it are very happy with the result, since 80-90% of the time, they do not need glasses for distance or reading purposes, but may need them if the lighting is very dim (such as restaurants) or for computer work.
All in all, there have been and continue to be advances in cataract surgery, which is a 5-minute procedure that restores one of the most precious senses an individual has. I’m sure that there will be more advances available in the years to come.
If You Think You Have a Cataract
Make an appointment or call us at (316) 264-8932.