A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens in the eye that affects vision. It causes light to be obstructed or scattered throughout the eye instead of focusing precisely on the retina. Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens inside your eye located behind the iris. The clouding varies in degree from slight to complete opacity. It causes light to be obstructed or scattered throughout the eye instead of focusing precisely on the retina.
A healthy lens focuses light images on the retina which sends images to the brain. A lens inhibited by a cataract can become so clouded it keeps light and images from reaching the retina. In a young person, for example, the lens is clear like glass, with no significant opacity or color tint. With age, the lens undergoes a change in clarity and color, becoming increasingly hazy and changing color from a yellow-green tint that progresses to orange-brown.
If the clouding of the lens is not near the center or focal point of the lens, a cataract can remain undetected. Early symptoms are noticed when sharp images become blurred, bright colors become dull, or seeing at night becomes more difficult. Eyeglasses that were once effective no longer seem helpful. Glare, light sensitivity, and double vision are also symptoms of a progressing cataract.
The most common type of cataract is related to the aging of the eye progressing gradually over a period of years. The condition usually affects both eyes, but almost always one eye is affected earlier than the other. Some other causes of cataracts include diabetes, medications, steroids, radiation, long-term unprotected exposure to sunlight, previous eye surgery and family history. Neither diet nor lasers will make it go away.
The best way to treat a cataract is with surgery that removes the old, clouded lens and replacing it with a new, artificial lens. If, however, the symptoms of cataract are minor, surgery may not be needed. A simple change in eyeglass prescription may be effective. No medications, dietary supplements or exercises have been shown to prevent or cure cataracts. Surgery should be considered when cataracts cause enough loss of vision to interfere with daily activities. Dr. Robinson will recommend cataract surgery if it is appropriate.
Modern cataract surgery is a highly successful and common procedure. Basically, the cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a new artificial lens. This delicate surgery is preformed using a microscope, miniature instruments and local anesthetic. Dr. Robinson has been performing cataract surgery for over 30 years.
The surgical procedure usually takes under half an hour, restoring the focusing power of the natural lens by replacing it with a permanent intraocular lens (IOL) implant.
The steps of cataract surgery:
- Dr. Robinson will perform a thorough eye examination.
- Measurements are taken to determine the proper power of the intraocular lens that will be placed in the eye.
- Eye drops are prescribed to be started before the day of surgery.
- Dr. Robinson reviews the patient’s usual medications for necessary adjustments.
- Arrangements are made by the patient for after surgery transportation.
Day of Surgery (Longmont Surgery Center at United Medical Building)
- The patient is given local or topical anesthesia and an intravenous sedative.
- The skin around the eye will be thoroughly cleansed and sterile coverings set in place around the eye.
- The eye is anesthetized with drops on the surface. (You may see light and shadows and hear sound, but you will not be able to see or feel the surgery while it is happening.)
- A small incision, @ ¼ “ is made through the edge of the cornea.
- The front capsule of the lens is opened.
- A phaco instrument, it’s tip vibrating at ultrasonic frequency, is used to break up the clouded lens into small fragments that are gently vacuumed out of the eye.
- The main part of the lens capsule is intentionally left in place.
- The lens implant is folded up and inserted through the small corneal incision into the eye, where it unfolds within the lens capsule.
- Dr. Robinson will verify that the lens is well positioned.
- The eye is reinflated with saline to normal pressure causing the corneal incision to seal like a trap door.
- After surgery is completed, Dr. Robinson will secure a shield over the eye.
- After a short stay in the recovery room, the patient is released into the care of the person responsible for providing patient transportation.
- Eye drops are prescribed to prevent infection and promote healing.
- A follow up office visit scheduled for the following day allows Dr. Robinson to evaluate the eye and confirm that proper healing should continue.
In some people who have cataract surgery, the natural capsule that supports the intraocular lens (IOL) may become cloudy over time. If this occurs, Dr. Robinson can perform an outpatient laser procedure (called YAG capsulotomy) to open this cloudy capsule, restoring clear vision.
The success rate of cataract surgery is excellent. Improved vision is achieved in the majority of patients if other vision problems are not present.
Cataract surgery is a remarkable procedure to restore vision and in many ways, significantly improve your quality of life.