A cataract occurs when the eye’s natural lens begins to cloud. The natural lens is located behind the iris and the pupil, and is made up of mostly water and protein. The natural lens works similarly to a camera lens by focusing light onto the retina which is located at the back of the eye. This important segment of your eye also adjusts the focus of the eye, which enables us to see things from up close and far away.
Protein is formed on the natural lens in a way that still allows the light to pass through, but as we get older the protein may begin to clump together causing a small cloud to begin to form on the lens. This cloud is the cataract, and as time goes on it may begin to grow and cloud more of the natural lens. As the natural lens is crowded, seeing becomes more of a challenge.
Generally cataracts form as you get older, and usually they do not begin to have an impact to your vision until after the age of 55, but cataracts can also occur at birth or any other age as a result of injury to the natural lens. Certain diseases such diabetes, or use long-term use of medications can cause cataracts.
Cataracts usually start out small, and at this point they have little impact to your vision. You may start to notice a slight blur in your vision. As your cataracts grow, you may begin to notice more effects that start to occur:
You may be unable to correct the changes in your vision with glasses prescriptions
Double vision may start in one or both of your eyes
Glares from the sunlight or from headlights on cars when driving at night may be heightened
Colors could start to appear more dull
When cataract symptoms initially appear, glasses or contacts may temporarily resolve vision problems. As the cataracts begin to grow, and these remedies fail, cataract surgery is the next solution.
Cataract surgery has a high success rate when it comes to restoring your vision, and in the United States it is the most frequently performed surgery. Nearly 3 million cataract surgeries are performed every year. 90% of cataract surgery patients regain good vision, and vision complications are pretty rare.
When you have cataract surgery, the surgeon with remove the clouded natural lens that distorted your vision, and replace it with a clear plastic intraocular lens (IOL). New and improved IOLs are being developed constantly to make the surgery less complicated, and provide better outcomes for patients. Certain IOLs not only improve your vision for seeing things far away, but can decrease your dependence on glasses for reading as well.
Regardless if you have cataracts in both eyes, surgery is only performed on one eye per procedure. The entire procedure for cataract removal lasts only about 10 minutes if everything goes smoothly, but you spend extra time prepping for the procedure and in recovery. If you notice signs or symptoms of cataracts, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.