What are Cataracts?

A cataract is a cloudiness or opacity in the crystalline lens of the eye. This lens is about the size of an aspirin tablet and located just behind the iris or colored part of the eye.

As a cataract forms, the normally clear lens becomes cloudy and a gradual reduction in vision occurs. Cataracts are most often found in persons over age 55, but are also occasionally found in younger persons, even newborns.

The cause of most cataracts is not known, however, they may occur as an abnormality at birth, from diabetes or other general health diseases, from certain drugs, or from injury. Some cataracts develop rapidly, while others may never reach the point where they interfere greatly with vision. Common symptoms that are experienced by many include an increasing haziness causing blurred or distorted vision. Colors may seem yellowed.

More and more amounts of light are needed to see clearly. The density of the lens causes patients to become more nearsighted. Some patients with cataracts may even go through a stage where it is easier to see without glasses.

How do I know if I have cataracts?

In a comprehensive eye examination at Prairie Vision Center we can determine whether or not you have cataracts. When cataracts begin to restrict your normal activities such as reading, driving, or watching TV comfortably, surgery may be indicated.

Surgical removal of the cloudy lens is the only known treatment. There are no known drops, vitamins, or drugs that will dissolve a cataract. Fortunately, with modern surgical techniques and post surgical care, blindness from cataracts is becoming far less common.


Cataract Surgery

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in your eye. They occur for a number of reasons with an aging eye as the most common. At some point in time the cataract clouds vision to the point it needs removing. Cataract surgery is neccessary at this time.

Today’s cataract surgery is a no stitch procedure with just a tiny incision. An ophthalmologist removes the cataract using ultrasound. An artificial lens is put in its place. The size of the lens is about as big as an orange seed.

The surgery takes twenty minutes and the patient is awake during the surgery. It is an outpatient procedure so there is no hospital stay. The next day a follow up visit is necessary to evaluate the outcome. Eye drops are taken over the next 4 to 6 weeks to prevent infection and reduce swelling.

Healing is very rapid. An eye guard is worn on the first night. Heavy lifting and staying out of dusty environments need to be avoided for a couple of weeks. An optometrist will do follow up visits to ensure proper healing.

In about a month the eye has healed enough for glasses to be prescribed. This procedure has a very high success rate with few complications. It is the most common surgery done in the United States.


Intraocular Lenses

Intraocular lenses or implants, are an integral part of almost all cataract surgeries. These tiny plastic discs, which measure 6 millimeters in diameter are placed in the eye at the time the cataract is removed. Due to the nature of the intraocular lens material, no inflammatory or allergic reaction to the surrounding eye tissues are caused.

This is the most natural way to restore vision after cataract surgery. It requires no care and does everything the original human lens did except that it cannot focus at all distances. There are some new implants that can do some focusing up close and still see in the distance. These lenses are still in the early stages of development and are still not used a great deal because of some complications with blurred vision. Most patients require eyeglasses for their best distance or near vision. To obtain measurements for the implant, an A scan is performed. The Ascan test allows for the implant measurement to be made using ultrasound. The A scan can measure how long the eye is within one hundredth of a millimeter. This allows for very accurate lens power calculations to determine the proper implant. An optometrist usually performs this test prior to the cataract surgery.