Unlocking the Mystery of Cataracts: What They Are, How They Affect Your Vision, and How Modern Treatment Can Restore Your Sight
See through the haze of cataracts and discover how modern advancements in eye care have made it possible to restore your vision, regain your independence, and see the world with clarity and confidence.
What are Cataracts
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens. Because they block light from passing through the lens, cataracts make it difficult to see clearly and can even cause blindness over time. Our eyes provide good vision for most of our lives, though many may require glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery to sharpen that vision. Although cataracts are more common in older adults, people in their 30s, 40s, or even younger can also develop cataracts. Some cataracts are associated with injuries, medications, inflammation, and certain systemic diseases such as diabetes. Cataracts are far and away the most common treatable cause of poor vision. Knowing about the eye and how it works is helpful to understand better what a cataract is.
The Eye: A Complex Camera-like Structure Connected to the Brain
The eye is a complex structure closely related to the brain's structures. The eye is like a camera. Light enters through the clear front of the eye (the cornea) and passes through the pupil (the opening in the center of the iris, or colored portion of the eye); and is focused by the lens, which lies behind the pupil and the iris, onto the retina.
The eye's clear lens is like the lens of a camera in that it focuses light, providing clear, distinct detail. The pupil is similar to the aperture or opening of a camera. It gets larger or smaller depending on how much light is exposed to the eye. The retina is in the back of the eye, like the film or sensor in a camera. It receives the light, but instead of storing it to be developed into a photograph, it transmits the light to the brain through the optic nerve. If the retina is in good condition, the picture will be clear; if the retina is damaged or has aged considerably, the picture may not be so clear.
Cataracts: A Common Age-Related Eye Condition that Affects Millions Worldwide
The lens is usually clear and surrounded by a capsule that holds it in place and helps change shape to focus each image. When this lens becomes cloudy, a cataract is present. The entire lens does not need to be cloudy for the problem to be termed a cataract. A cataract can consist of cloudiness or opacity anywhere in the lens.
Most cataracts are a natural part of aging, affecting around 65 percent of people in their 60s and over 80 percent of people older than 70. In one recent study, 15 percent of people 52 to 85 had cataracts, reducing their visual acuity to below average. Approximately 5 million to 10 million people worldwide become visually disabled yearly because of cataracts. In this country alone, some 1 million cataract operations are performed yearly. Patients who refuse cataract surgery constitute the second largest group of blind persons in the United States.
Some cataracts advance rapidly and impair vision in months, while others progress slowly and take years before they cause any significant problems. A cataract may be present in only one eye, or if present in both eyes, cataracts may worsen at different rates. Those that develop on the back or center of the lens are the ones that are usually responsible for vision being blurrier in bright sunlight rather than in dim light.
Beyond Cloudy Vision - How Cataracts Can Affect Your Daily Life, Depth Perception, and Nighttime Vision
Cataracts, a common age-related eye condition, can cause more than cloudy vision. They can result in glare, difficulty reading or driving, and halos around lights at night. If a cataract is more developed in one eye than the other, it can lead to a loss of depth perception, making simple tasks like climbing stairs or judging distances a challenge. While pain, discomfort, or red eyes are rare, an advanced stage of cataract can cause these symptoms, indicating the need for cataract surgery.
How Cataract Surgery Has Evolved from a Painful Procedure to a Life-Changing Solution
Cataract surgery has improved and advanced dramatically during the last several decades. Many patients recall how frightened their parents or grandparents were at the thought of having cataract operations. Not only were they in the hospital for several weeks, but recovery was usually painful. Patients had to lie still for several weeks and remain inactive for many months. In addition, patients had to be fitted with thick, heavy cataract glasses before they regained their vision. The glasses made seeing difficult for the patient and often required them to cover one eye to prevent double vision until the patient could have cataract surgery in the other eye.
Clear Vision Ahead: How Modern Cataract Surgery is Making a Pain-Free, Stitch-Free, and Rapid Recovery a Reality
With today’s modern surgical techniques and scientific and technological advances, cataract surgery has become practically painless, is much easier on the patient, and provides better vision. The operation can be performed on an outpatient basis most of the time and usually requires no stitches.
In all cases, a specialist in anesthesia monitors the patient for safety throughout the cataract surgery. After talking with the patient and the patient’s family, the ophthalmologist will choose the type of anesthesia that will make the patient most comfortable before, during, and after the cataract surgery. For most patients, local anesthesia is used.
Modern cataract surgery has been made possible by the operating microscope. It allows the surgeon to see better to remove the cataract and implant the IOL into the eye. The cataract surgeon uses an extracapsular surgical technique to remove the cataract lens but leaves the back portion of the natural lens capsule in place.
Several different techniques can remove the old cloudy lens. The technique chosen depends on the type of cataract and other factors about the patient. The whole lens (intracapsular technique) or the central portion (extracapsular technique) can be removed depending on the need. Another extracapsular technique is phacoemulsiﬁcation, where a tiny ultrasonic, vibrating instrument is placed into the cataract to break it into fragments that are liqueﬁed and suctioned out through a small incision in the eye. This is sometimes mistakenly called the ‘laser technique,’ but that is not an accurate description. Phacoemulsiﬁcation (ultrasonic) cataract removal with intraocular lens implantation gives excellent visual results, but the ophthalmologist must weigh all factors before they can tell their patient which technique will be best for them. We favor performing phacoemulsiﬁcation because it allows for a smaller incision and usually no stitches. The patient feels relatively comfortable during the operation; the procedure usually takes approximately 12 minutes or less.
With outpatient cataract surgery, it is possible to resume most normal activities the following day. Vision can be restored to normal levels before the end of that time, but the healing process takes about four to six weeks. Observation and counseling of the patient during postoperative visits are critical.
IOLs and Other Natural Lens Substitutes
Three kinds of substitutes for the natural lens of the eye are currently available. Each of these three substitutes for the natural lens has certain advantages and disadvantages.
1. Spectacles (thick cataract glasses)
Cataract glasses are the oldest and most conservative way to restore sight after cataract surgery. Usually, these glasses can only be used comfortably after a patient has had the cataract removed from each eye. Cataract spectacles have several drawbacks: they are incredibly thick and heavy, make objects appear about one-third larger than they are, straight things seem curved and distort side vision, and they can be difﬁcult to get used to, and some people never adjust to them. They can also cause difﬁculties when the wearer goes up or down stairs. No one requests this correction method, and surgeons have abandoned this old method.
2. Contact lenses
A contact lens is a small thin lens that rides on a layer of tears on the eye’s surface. Several contact lenses are now available – hard, soft, and extended-wear soft contact lenses. However, many older patients cannot wear contact lenses because of discomfort, irritation, and insertion and removal problems.
3. Intraocular lens implants (IOLs)
The third manufactured substitute for the eye’s natural lens is the intraocular lens (IOL). This tiny synthetic lens is made of plastic, silicone, or acrylic, is permanently inserted into the eye, and will last indeﬁnitely. Since this lens is placed in about the same place as the cloudy natural lens, the restored vision is more natural. Side vision and image size are normal, and there is no discomfort. There is no foreign body to irritate the surface of the eye.
The number of IOL implants used for cataract surgery has increased over the last 35 years. Older lens types and techniques were not uniformly successful, but with modern, high-quality IOLs and highly sophisticated surgical techniques, most patients can achieve excellent vision. Almost all patients now receive an implant during their cataract surgery. The most recent IOL advancements are multifocal or pseudo-accommodative lenses that allow patients to see close up and in the distance. As technology improves, implants will allow cataract patients a higher quality of life with less dependency on glasses and contact lenses.
Unveiling the Mystery of Age-Related Cataracts: The Latest Research on Factors that Contribute to this Common Eye Condition
While the exact cause of age-related cataracts remains unknown, several factors have been identified through research. These include genetic predisposition, exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, smoking, poor nutrition, and certain medications. Additionally, some medical conditions like diabetes and eye injuries can increase the risk of developing cataracts. Despite this, there is still much to be learned about this common eye condition, and ongoing research is being conducted to understand its underlying mechanisms better. Here are many things that we do know about cataracts:
- Cataracts would likely develop in every person if they lived long enough.
- Cataracts are not tumors or cancers. They are not contagious. They cannot spread.
- A cataract is not a film or a growth over the eye's surface; it cannot be removed simply by peeling a film off the eye.
- A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye. Cataracts are not caused by eyestrain or using your eyes too much, as in reading or watching television.
- Cataracts progress differently in different people. They progress regardless of whether the eyes are used.
- Not using your eyes will not slow down the progresas or development of a cataract.
- There is no proof that cataracts are related to diet or that special diets will prevent cataracts.
- Cataracts are not caused by regular exposure to sunlight.
- The only treatment for cataracts at this time is removal through cataract surgery. Other treatments, such as eye exercise, vitamins, diets, and special eye drops, have yet to prove effective.
Regain Your Clear Vision Today - Schedule Your Cataract Consultation with Hoopes Vision
Hoopes Vision is the top choice for cataract surgery in Utah. With modern advancements in eye care, they can restore your vision and help you regain your independence. Cataracts can affect people of all ages and lifestyles, and Hoopes Vision's team of experts can help you unlock the secrets of this eye condition and provide the best treatment for your unique needs. Don't let cataracts hold you back from enjoying all that life has to offer - take the first step towards better vision with Hoopes Vision.