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Imagine how difficult it would be to read, drive a vehicle at night, or see a loved one’s face because of clouded vision. The loss of clear vision, due to cataracts, is one of the most common vision problems in the world today. Cataracts cause a clouding of the normally clear lens in the eye. They can occur at any stage in life but are most commonly found in people ages 55 and older. However, cataracts are a natural part of the aging process. Old cells in the body are continuously being replaced by new cells. During the aging process, old cells will eventually become more difficult to replace and the make-up of the eye will change. This causes old cells to accumulate and cataracts to form.

What causes cataracts?

In the eye, the lens is located behind the colored part of the eye, the iris. Its responsibilities include focusing light on the back of the retina and providing clear images. The lens operates much like a camera. It can adjust the eye’s focus, allows us to see near and far, and remains clear so light can pass through. The lens remains transparent because of its protein and water content and placement. Aging inflicts wear and tear on the lens and clarity is reduced due to degenerative changes to the lens proteins. This change produces a clouding of the lens, or a cataract.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

Cloudy or blurred vision and sensitivity to light are the most common symptoms of cataracts. Other symptoms include faded colors, difficulty seeing at night and double vision. These symptoms make it difficult to perform everyday tasks like driving and reading. Those at a higher risk of developing cataracts include diabetics, those who smoke or drink alcohol, and those who have had prolonged exposure to sunlight.

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How are cataracts treated?

Unfortunately cataracts can’t be reversed or prevented. However, there are treatments that can eliminate cataracts. As a cataract begins to form, an eye doctor should monitor the minor changes in vision. This involves little to no treatment. Continuing to monitor the patient’s vision by scheduling regular check-ups is ideal for patients whose eyes have begun to form cataracts.

Changing the patient’s current eyeglass prescription, anti-glare sunglasses or magnifying glasses can be used for to help alleviate some of the early symptoms of a cataract, as well as reading under more light. If these methods are ineffective and the patient is finding that everyday tasks are becoming more difficult to perform, surgery is the next step.

Cataract surgery can drastically improve vision by replacing the natural lens with an artificial lens. The new lens mimics a young, healthy version and requires no post-surgery care. Cataract surgery is safe, effective and takes a short time to complete. The procedure involves a small incision on the cornea. A probe that emits ultrasound waves is then inserted into the eye. The lens is suctioned out after the waves soften and break it up.

Implantation of an intraocular (IOL) lens replaces the damaged lens. There are different types of IOLs; monofocal and multifocal. With a monofocal IOL, the patient might still need to use bifocals or reading glasses to gain back totally clear vision. However, each patient has different needs and monofocal IOLs can be very effective for those who have difficulty seeing far distances.

The doctors and surgeons at Cataract & Laser Institute recommend multifocal intraocular lenses for patients who wish to see well at all distances. Unlike monofocal IOLs which have all of the power centralized in one part of the lens, multifocal IOLs have different powers which allow the patient to see effectively at near, middle, or far distances. The experienced doctors and staff at Cataract & Laser Institute will help guide you to the implant choice that is best for you. 

For more information on intraocular lenses please click here

What can you do to reduce the risk of developing cataracts?

Although cataracts are not totally preventable, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of developing them and other eye diseases. Many vitamins keep eyes healthy, including Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Zinc. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are two other vitamins that are great for eye health and can be found in green leafy vegetables. Avoiding participation in detrimental habits like smoking and drinking alcohol can also reduce the risk of developing cataracts.

Scheduling regular check-ups with your eye doctor is another positive step toward keeping your eyes healthy.

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