You've probably heard of cataracts. Maybe not. Either way, it's probably going to affect you or someone you know in your lifetime. Approximately 50% of people develop cataracts in their lifetime.
Cataracts are a disease that accounts for approximately 42% of blindness cases in all nations. In the United Statess, it's estimated that there are 25 million people with cataracts. That's a lot of people with impaired or absent vision! Fortunately, science has advanced quite rapidly in the past hundred years. Cataract treatment nowadays is fairly non-invasive and often times, patients end up with a better prescription than they had before. Complications are rare, and the procedure is very quick.
Let's start from the top.
What exactly is cataracts?
A cataract develops when the lens in your eye becomes cloudy, blocking light from entering your eye and allowing you to see properly. This is often due to UV exposure, old age, or a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Most cataract cases happen in older adults (a lifetime of UV exposure definitely contributes!) however, some cases can occur in children. It's important that cataracts in children are treated swiftly, as it can affect a child's vision development.
How are cataracts diagnosed?
Cataracts are often diagnosed with a dialated eye exam. An eye doctor places eye drops in the eyes of the patient that cause their pupils to dialate. This allows the doctor to look into the eye and monitor the eye health of the patient. An eye doctor diagnosing cataracts will be able to see the cloudiness of the lens, and refer to an Ophthalmologist, who can perform surgery if necessary.
What is the treatment for cataracts?
Depending on how cloudy the lens of the patient is, an Optometrist may suggest at home treatments, such as brighter lights, anti-glare sunglasses, or utilizing magnifiers to assist with vision. Alternatively, an Optometrist may write up a new prescription to help with a patient's vision. Finally, if the patient is unable to see with all of the previously mentioned methods, during their day-to-day life, the Optometrist will refer to an Ophthalmologist for a surgical consultation.
What is the cataract surgery process like?
After the initial referral, a patient will meet with the Ophthalmologist to undergo some testing to measure the size and shape of the patient's eye. This helps the doctor determine the right kind of artifical lens, also known as an intraocular lens, or IOL.
Following the intial visit, an appointment will be made to perform the surgery.
During the surgery, the doctor will put numbing drops in the patient's eye, remove the lens and replace it with an artificial one. The surgery lasts an hour and is nearly painless. The medical team will make sure there are no problems with the eye before the patient leaves the office.
9 out of 10 patients end up with better vision after the cataract surgery, and there are a number of artifical lenses available to correct vision, either for distance, or reading, or both.
I hope this post has improved your awareness regarding cataracts. It is cataract awareness month, afterall!
By Hoedeman Optical