Health & Well-Being

What Is A Cataract?

Jun 21, 2018

What Is A Cataract?

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.


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About the Author: Dr. Amilia Schrier

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.

Dr. Schrier is a featured medical contributor for "Expert Insights" on Ophthalmic Edge Patients (OE Patients), an online resource, presented by the Association for Macular Diseases, providing practical information and empowering advice for living a full and successful life with vision loss.



One Comment

  1. The OE Team says:

    We’d like to share a comment emailed to us by our reader, with a helpful insight based on his personal experience.

    Thank all of you at the Association for Macular Diseases for all the informative articles online and in Eyes Only. I have enjoyed them and benefited for years, first in helping my mother deal with her AMD and now my elderly neighbor.

    In the latest issue of Eyes Only, the very last sentence in the section titled “What is a Cataract?” caught my attention. It states as follows: “Surgery is a permanent solution; the cataract does not grow back.”

    The reason this statement struck me is that I just recently had to have YAG capsulotomy laser treatment because I experienced fairly severe blurred vision in one of my eyes which had had cataract surgery and a lens implant about 4 years ago. It turns out that this experience is not all that rare and may happen in quite a few patients, I’m told. Apparently the membrane behind the lens implant can become cloudy, causing blurred vision and/or haloes and streaks around lights. The yag laser is used to open a small hole in the cloudy membrane in order to restore vision. It is an in-office procedure and took about 15 minutes. I am now seeing just as well as before the cloudiness started.

    So, while technically the cataract does not grow back, as stated in the article, surgery is not necessarily a permanent solution. At least it wasn’t in my case, and could likely occur with some of your readers. I think it would be a further service to them to inform them of this possibility.

    Thanks for considering my suggestion. Maybe the next edition of “Eyes Only” will contain this update.

    Dick Slawson

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