Cataracts: Causes, Treatments and the Misconceptions Surrounding Them Both

Cataract surgery is often the most common reason people find themselves in the ophthalmologist’s office

Among the many eye-related diseases, conditions, and injuries we treat and care for in our industry, cataract surgery is often the most common reason people find themselves in the ophthalmologist’s office. Despite this, it’s easy for the technological advances in cataract surgery to go unrecognized, and oftentimes the idea of the procedure itself may seem daunting to some patients. Considering over half of Americans over the age of 80 have had cataracts or have had surgery to get rid of them, it’s a process worthy of providing clarity over.

What are cataracts, and what causes them?

Cataracts form from a buildup of protein within the lens of your eye making it cloudy and often resulting in a loss of vision. These buildups usually happen slowly, sometimes even going unnoticed until they start to block light passing through the eye. Common symptoms include cloudy or blurry vision, trouble seeing at night, and changes in the way you see color. Typically, cataract formation is age-related, most often affecting older populations. But there are many reasons unrelated to age that could cause cataracts, such as excessive smoking and drinking, eye injury, family history, and certain health problems like diabetes.

What’s the treatment for cataracts?

In the early stages of cataract development, only minor adjustments would have to be made to accommodate the symptoms like using brighter lights, using magnifying lenses for reading, or maybe getting a new prescription. Eventually, cataracts may cause too much of a nuisance on everyday tasks and your doctor may suggest cataract surgery. This is a very safe and common procedure where the doctor removes the affected lens and replaces it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL).

The truth about cataracts:

  • Cataracts are not growths that need to be removed. Cataracts form when proteins build up in the lens of your eye. As much as these transparent proteins may develop and become opaque over time, they are not growths on the eyeball.
  • Cataract removal surgery is safe. With over 3.7 million cataract surgeries being performed in the United States each year, cataract surgery has become one of the safest operations in medicine. Usually, the procedure only lasts around 15 to 20 minutes and the patient will be on their way in a couple of hours.
  • Cataract removal surgery is virtually painless. The doctor will start the procedure by numbing the eye with fast-acting eye drops so nothing is felt during the lens removal and replacement. Recovery often passes quickly, with patients usually only reporting minor aches that can be handled with over-the-counter pain relief.
  • The recovery time is brief. As long as you avoid heavy lifting for the first week, patients are often able to return to their usual routine within a day of recovery.
  • The procedure could improve eyesight. Groundbreaking technological advancements in cataract surgery have provided doctors with the ability to choose different lens options depending on the needs of each patient. During the lens transplant, special IOLs called multifocal lenses may be used which are specially designed to reduce or eliminate the need for both near and distant-focus glasses.

For more information about cataracts or to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist, please contact us.