Frequently Asked Questions About Cataracts
The lens of the eye can be compared to a camera lens. The eye lens is found behind the iris and the pupil. The lens focuses the light back toward the retina and the image is recorded there. Like a camera lens, the eye lens can also adjust focus. Unlike a camera, the eye lens is not made of glass; it is mainly made of water and protein. In an eye with normal vision, this protein is arranged in a way that the lens is clear and light is able to pass through it. But, sometimes the protein clumps together and starts to cloud the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract can grow and cloud a larger area of the lens, making it progressively more difficult to see.
Gradually, as cataracts progress, patients may experience symptoms such as:
- Painless cloudy, blurry or dim vision
- More difficulty seeing at night or in low light
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Seeing halos around lights
- Faded or yellowed colors
- The need for brighter light for reading and other activities
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions
- Double vision within one eye
Age is the most common cause of cataract. However, cataracts do not only affect senior citizens. In fact, people can have age-related cataracts in their 40s and 50s. Most with cataracts in middle age will not experience a major impact on vision; it may take several years for the cataract to advance to cause a more severe problem. There are less common types of cataracts, not related to normal aging; these include: Non-age related Cataracts from other disease or medication These cataracts are caused by other eye diseases or previous eye surgery. Chronic disease can make you more likely to develop cataracts; for example, diabetes has been proven to increase the risk of cataracts. Excessive use of steroid medications can spur the development of this type of cataract as well. Congenital or developmental Cataracts This type of cataract can occur in infants or children. These cases may be hereditary or they can be associated with some birth defects; some occur without any obvious cause. Traumatic Cataracts These cataracts are related directly to an eye injury. Traumatic cataracts may appear immediately following an injury, or they can develop several months or even years later.
Cataracts can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam. Our doctors at Community Eye Center perform thousands of these exams each year. During the exam:
- Patients will have a visual test that uses an eye chart test to measures sight at various distances
- Patients will have a dilated eye exam, during which drops are placed in the eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils; a magnifying lens is used to examine the retina and optic nerve for damage and/or other possible eye issues; after the exam, the patient’s vision might be blurry for a few hours
- Patients will undergo a tonometry test. During this test an instrument is used to measure the pressure inside the eye
- Some patients may also require other tests may be required to determine the health and examine the structure of the eye.
Cataract surgery is rarely an urgent situation. It should be done when the patient is medically stable and when the patient’s cataracts begin to interfere with the patient’s ability to function in everyday activities such as driving and reading. A cataract may need to be removed even if it is not causing vision problems. For example, it may be necessary to remove a cataract if it prevents examination or treatment of another eye issue, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.
Choosing the right lens depends on a variety of factors, including lifestyle, medical history and the patient’s visual needs and expectations. Our doctors take time with the patient to help determine the implant that will be best suited for their unique needs. If it is determined that surgery is appropriate, this questionnaire will help your surgeon provide the best treatment for your visual needs.
Community Eye Center and St. Lucy’s Outpatient Surgery Center perform only eye surgery; because of this, all of our procedures are efficient and streamlined. Upon arrival, patients walk into a very warm, friendly environment, where they are asked the appropriate questions by our staff and allowed to express their own questions and concerns prior to surgery. Patients are relieved to find the surgery is painless. The eye surgeon uses anesthetic eye drops to numb the eyes, as well as I.V. medication to relax the patient. Using a process called phacoemulsification; the surgeon breaks up the cataract and “vacuums” it from the eye pouch – a very safe and proven technique. The lens implant is then inserted. In most cases, a suture is not needed. The entire process takes 15 minutes.
More than 60 percent of patients see better than 20/30 the first day after cataract surgery. Those with pre-existing medical conditions, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and corneal problems, usually find it takes a little longer to see clearly.
Post-surgery our doctors prefer to see patients the day after the procedure, then five days later and then again after two weeks. Most patients’ eyes stabilize during that time. Antibiotic drops are given to prevent infection and ease inflammation.
It is not necessary to travel for superior eye care. Community Eye Center’s St. Lucy’s Outpatient Surgery Center is the only outpatient eye surgery center in Charlotte County with national accreditation from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. To earn this, the facility has to adhere to a rigorous standard. The doctors at Community Eye Center deliver exceptional care; this is fostered by the fact that CEC specializes exclusively in eye care.