Each year more than 60% of adults age 60 or older will show signs of cataracts,
a clouding of the eye's natural lens. Symptoms may include poor reading vision,
poor night vision, light seems more glaring than before, or colors appear less bright.
If you suffer from these symptoms, call our office for a simple screening exam.
The Eye Clinic at Valley Medical Center has the most advanced technology available
in its state-of-the-art facility. Our team is experienced and trained to perform
the most technologically advanced medical and surgical eye procedures, including
the removal of cataracts and the insertion of intraocular lenses. Cataract surgery
is usually performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis and is one of
the most successful procedures in all of medicine.
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the natural human lens. The lens is the part of your
eye that focuses light onto the retina to produce clear images. It consists mainly
of protein. If the protein in one's human lens denatures over time, it becomes cloudy
and is called a "cataract."
One example of denaturing protein would be in "hard boiling" an egg. As the clear
liquid (protein) of the egg is heated it denatures and becomes a white solid.
The human lens protein within the eye gradually denatures over years and first gets
less flexible. By the age of 40 or so the lens is no longer able to flex to completely
focus images for near, so we begin wearing reading glasses for close vision. At
this age, however, the lens is usually still visually clear.
When Do Cataracts Occur?
Cataracts are a normal part of the aging process, the early signs of which may be
noted as early as age 50. It has been said that if everyone lived to age 200 we
all would need cataract removal. Some folks get cataracts earlier than others. Most
cataracts progress slowly, and are not visually significant; until approximately
age 65 or older. Cataracts can come on sooner with certain systemic diseases such
as diabetes, or certain occupations, like glass blowers requiring one to stare at
UV light all day at work.
When cataracts get more advanced they start to decrease the light's ability to pass
efficiently through the lens, causing a decrease in visual clarity. They usually
form slowly and are associated with no pain, redness, or tearing.
When Do I Worry About It?
A cataract is not significant, however, until it interferes with vision. If a cataract
becomes large or dense, it usually can be removed by surgery, but some stay small
and don't change one's eyesight much in the course of a lifetime.
While cataracts result in diminished acuity because of the opacification of the
lens, they do not affect the field of vision, but these people have more difficulty
seeing in poorly lit environments due to a decrease in contrast sensitivity. Many
people with cataracts experience increased sensitivity to light and glare. Reading
material appears faded or hazy and is more difficult to read in dim lighting. Patients
sometimes also notice halos around streetlights or headlights at night. People frequently
mention an overall sensitivity to glare, especially at night, such as the reflection
of light from metal on a car or pavement, or fluorescent ceiling lights. Colors
appear faded or washed out and a change in the patient's eyeglass prescription may
not improve visual clarity. During the day, patients with cataracts may notice that
they are morelight sensitive, but sunglasses only appear to reduce vision.
Cataract surgery is generally very safe, has a high success rate, and is one of
the most common surgeries performed in the U.S. It is estimated that 95% of patients
experience improved vision after surgery, provided there are no other eye conditions
or diseases present. Approximately 5% of surgery cases result in minor complications.
During a cataract surgery, the surgeon removes the cloudy natural lens of the eye
and, in most cases, replaces it with a clear silicone or acrylic lens. This implant
is actually a very small prescription lens placed inside the eye that will improve
the quality of distance vision for most patients, although reading glasses are almost
always still needed.
For more information on Cataract Removal,
click here for our Patient Info page with informative links.