What is a Cataract?

The lens of the eye focuses light that enters through the pupil. The light rays must be focused precisely onto the retina to form a sharp image. The lens is normally clear, like glass. However, it may become cloudy over time and this is called a cataract. Clouding of the lens is a natural aging process of the eye, and cataracts are a normal finding in people over 60. Cataracts can impair vision by blocking the amount of light entering the eye, making images dimmer. They can also scatter light rays instead of focusing them, making images blurry. Symptoms of glare, halos around lights, or even double vision can be produced by cataracts.

How are they diagnosed?

A complete eye exam is necessary to diagnose cataracts and determine if they are the cause of visual symptoms. Visual acuity may be recorded with and without glasses, and a new glasses measurement may be performed. Pupils are usually dilated to allow examination of the lens and retina.

How are they treated?

In the early stages of cataracts, vision can sometimes be improved with new glasses. However, it is normal that cataracts progress over time. Patients should expect their vision to gradually deteriorate if they have early cataracts. If glasses don’t improve the vision, the only treatment is surgical removal of the cataract. There are no eye drops or laser treatments available to treat cataracts.

How is the surgery done?

Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure. It is typically performed with the patient awake, but a sedative is given to reduce anxiety. Local anesthetic is used on the eye to numb it for the surgery. An ultrasound device is used to soften the cataract and remove it from the eye. An intraocular lens implant is then carefully placed in the eye to replace the cloudy lens that was removed.

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