A cataract is a natural lens that becomes cloudy, or less than clear. Cataract is the leading cause of reversible blindness and vision loss in the world.
The natural lens always becomes more opaque and denser with age, but this process may be accelerated by trauma to the eye including previous ocular surgeries, certain medications such as steroids, medical conditions such as diabetes, poor nutrition, and extreme sun exposure, amongst many other conditions.
As the natural lens opacifies, a decrease in vision may be noted. The ability to distinguish objects, halos, glare, or even doubling of images can occur. If an individual’s vision is unable to be corrected adequately with glasses or contact lenses, the patient may be a candidate for cataract removal.
Cataract Surgery and Risks
Cataract surgery involves the removal of the cloudy natural lens and replacement with an artificial lens implant. The surgery may take many different forms, from extraction of the lens in total to a fragmentation of the lens. The replacement lens implant is made from a type of plastic, usually acrylic or silicone, and may correct vision for distance, near or both.
In addition, some lens implants can correct preexisting astigmatism allowing for more spectacle independence. The choice of lens implants is made after a discussion of the patient’s visual needs by patient and physician.
A prescription for glasses may be necessary for best visual correction post operatively depending on the patient. The techniques and implants used are determined by a combination of the patient’s input and physician expertise.
Cataract surgery is one of the safest surgical procedures. However, there is no surgery that is risk-free. Complications, although very rare, may result in loss of vision and this needs to be considered prior to undergoing cataract surgery.
A majority of cataract surgery is considered elective. The surgery itself is painless, and “same-day,” going home and back to normal activities in short order. Usually drops are necessary in the immediate post-operative period to protect the eye from infection and inflammation. If needed, a final prescription is given usually approximate one-month post-surgery.
Surgery is a permanent solution; the cataract does not grow back.
About the Author
Dr. Amilia Schrier is the Director of Education with a specialty in Ophthalmology at Manhattan Eye Ear and Throat Hospital, located in New York, New York.