Cataracts are clouding areas in the eye’s lens, which lies behind the iris; and the pupil. Cataracts can develop in one or both eyes. They typically start out small, with minimal effect on your vision. Many patients with cataracts suffer from hazy, blurred vision, which increasingly gets worse over time.
Cataracts are one of the most common causes of vision loss in people over age 40 and is the principal cause of blindness in the world. In fact, according to Prevent Blindness America (PBA), cataracts affect more than 24 million Americans age 40 and above. As the population ages, this number is expected to grow to 30 million people, by the year 2020.
Types of Cataracts
- Subcapsular Cataract: A cataract that occurs towards the back of the lens. Those predisposed to this type of cataract include people with diabetes or those taking high dosages of corticosteroids.
- Nuclear Cataract: A cataract that forms deep in the nucleus of the lens. Senior citizens have a greater chance of developing a nuclear cataract since it is associated with aging.
- Cortical Cataract: A cataract that is characterized by white, wedge-like opacities, which begin in the periphery of the lens and works its way toward the center in a spoke-like fashion.
Causes of Cataracts
- Age-related: 95% of all cataracts are age-related; affecting adults over the age of 40
- Congenital: Cataracts that are present at birth. Typical causes include infection or inflammation during pregnancy; some are inherited.
- Traumatic: Lens damage resulting from blunt trauma, cuts on the face, puncture wounds, chemical burns, ultraviolet light damage, or intense heat exposure to the eye.
- Secondary: Cataract caused by certain medications, eye diseases, eye infections, or diseases such as diabetes.
Treatment for Cataracts
If cataracts have not altered your lifestyle, or kept you from living life to the fullest, you may not yet need surgery. Surgical intervention should be discussed in length with your ophthalmologist when your cataracts seriously impair your vision; and affect your daily life. You and your doctor together will decide if surgery is right for you.
“Cataract surgery is one of the most common operations performed in the United States,” according to National Eye Institute (NIH). It is also one of the most effective and safest procedures for restoring vision. 90% of all patients who have undergone cataract surgery report better vision post-op. This procedure typically lasts less than hour and is quite painless.
Just prior to surgery, your pupil will be dilated with eyedrops, and the area around the eye will be thoroughly washed and cleansed to avoid infection. During surgery, your surgeon will remove your clouded lens, and replace it with a medical-grade intraocular lens (IOL). A patch may be placed over your eye after surgery. Most patients can go home the same day of their cataract surgery.