What are Cataracts & Cataract Surgery?

There are many different types of cataracts and a variety of symptoms

The lens of the eye is located behind the pupil. Its function is to focus light through the pupil and back to the retina so that we can see. In addition, the human lens can accommodate, or change its shape in order to focus at near and distant objects. As one gets older, the lens gets stiffer and can no longer focus as well up close. This aging change happens to everyone and is called presbyopia.

When a cataract forms, the natural human lens becomes cloudy, often a yellowish-brown color. It not only blocks light from entering the eye, but also scatters light and causes glare or even double vision. Cataracts typically progress slowly but can be rapid in some cases. A cataract is not a film or growth on the lens but is the clouding of the human lens itself. The only treatment is to surgically remove the clouded human lens and replace it with a clear artificial intraocular lens implant (IOL).

Cataracts are a common age-related condition, causing blurred vision, sensitivity to light and other symptoms. Cataract surgery replaces the cloudy cataract lens with an intraocular lens implant that allows most patients to see well without the use of glasses or contacts. This painless, outpatient surgery takes 8-10 minutes per eye and involves a small, non-invasive incision and quick recovery time.

What are the Symptoms of a Cataract?

  • A gradual deterioration in vision over time
  • Objects may appear yellow, hazy, blurred or distorted
  • Vision at night or in low light conditions may be reduced
  • Vision in bright light or in the sun may be difficult due to glare
  • Halos may appear around bright lights at night

Clouded Cataract Vision

Normal, Clear Vision

Types of Cataracts – 4 Basic Types

  • Nuclear Sclerotic Cataract – This is the most common type of cataract that occurs with aging and typically progresses slowly. The natural lens becomes more dense and yellowish brown in the nucleus, or center of the lens.
  • Cortical Cataract – This type of white–gray cataract forms in the outer lens cortex, gradually extending its spokes from the outside of the lens to the center.
  • Posterior Sub Capsular Cataract (PSC) – This type of cataract may occur at younger ages than nuclear sclerotic cataracts and can progress very rapidly. A PSC is an opacity on the back surface of the lens. Patients with diabetes, radiation treatment, and trauma are more prone to develop this type of cataract.
  • Combined – Often cataracts are a combination of those listed above

What causes Cataracts?

Cataracts develop for a number of reasons, but the most common cause is aging. These age-related cataracts develop as a result of natural changes within the lens. In other cases, an injury or blow to the eye may cause a traumatic cataract. Some cataracts also result from the use of certain drugs, exposure to harmful chemicals, excessive amounts of ultraviolet radiation, or certain diseases. Cataracts are typically slowly progressive but occasionally can be rapidly progressive. In addition, some babies are born with congenital cataracts as a result of unusual prenatal factors. Some cataracts are simply inherited. Fortunately, Dr. Cavanaugh is able to successfully remove almost all cataracts and restore vision through modern microsurgery.

Cataracts and Surgical Treatment

Surgery is the only way to improve blurry vision and glare caused by cataracts. There are no medications, eye drops, exercises, or glasses that will cause cataracts to disappear or to prevent them from forming. When cataracts interfere with your vision and you are no longer able to see well enough to do the things you like to do, cataract surgery should be considered. Cataract surgery is a quick, pain-free experience thanks to advances in surgical techniques and anesthesia. Patients are numbed with eye drop gel, not needles, and are peacefully relaxed but awake during the surgery.

Advanced Micro Incision Cataract Surgery Technique

Your lens will be removed with an advanced technique called phacoemulsification, or small-incision cataract surgery. After applying a local anesthetic, a very small incision is made in the front part of the eye either manually or with a laser. The natural lens is then broken into microscopic particles and gently removed from the eye. To compensate for the removal of the natural lens, an intra-ocular lens (IOL) is implanted into the eye to re-focus the vision. This micro-incision is self-healing, strong, and remains tightly sealed by the natural outward pressure within your eye. The procedure has a very high success rate with the risk of sight –threatening complications being less than 1% (see FAQs for more info).

Click here for information on your whole experience, from evaluation to surgery.