What is a cataract?
A cataract is a cloudiness of the crystalline lens inside the eye. As the lens gets cloudier, the patient’s vision becomes progressively more blurred. Similarly, the dirtier the camera lens, the more blurred the picture.
When the cataract blurs the vision severely enough to interfere with the patient’s normal daily activities, cataract surgery will be necessary to restore good vision.
Of course, other factors may be present that contribute to vision loss. The eye must be carefully examined preoperatively to be sure the vision loss is due only to a cataract. Special attention must be given to the retina, especially the macula, to be sure degeneration of the retina has not caused or contributed to loss of vision. The eye also must be checked for diseases of the cornea or evidence of glaucoma, which can affect the vision.
Why do cataracts develop?
Aging is, by far, the most common cause of cataracts. The center of the lens gradually undergoes a process of dehydration and hardening, or sclerosis. This sclerosis is accompanied by some clouding of the lens (cataract), which is present to some degree in virtually everyone over 70 years of age. Other less common causes of cataracts include eye injuries, some chronic systemic diseases (such as diabetes), toxic substances, and familial cataracts.
How fast do cataracts develop?
Cataracts develop at quite different rates in different people. Nuclear cataracts are associated with age and often progress quite slowly – over many months or years. Other cataracts can develop quickly and markedly reduce the vision over several weeks or months.
What are the beginning signs of a cataract?
Gradual blurring of vision, which progresses slowly over several months or years, always accompanies developing cataracts. Also, cataracts often cause sensitivity to bright light, diminished vision at night, and colors to fade. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes, although one cataract is often worse than the other. Cataracts do not cause a sudden decrease in vision, pain, itching, fluctuating vision or redness of the eye. These symptoms may indicate other forms of eye diseases or infections and should be investigated promptly.
Can cataracts be reversed or prevented?
Research is underway; however, at present no measures that reverse existing cataracts are known. Also, no treatment is known that will prevent cataracts from forming except in rare instances of hereditary infantile cataracts. The only treatment for cataracts is surgical removal of the cloudy cataract coupled with lens implant surgery to restore proper focus to the eye.
When should cataract surgery be performed?
Ordinarily, cataract surgery is not urgent. Only in rare instances, when a cataract causes severe inflammation in the eye or glaucoma, does the cataract surgery become necessary as an emergency operation. There may also be instances where the development of the cataract makes it difficult for the doctor to view the back of the eye to treat other eye conditions. The doctor may then advise the patient to proceed with cataract surgery. Modern surgical advances make cataract surgery very successful. Visual recovery is quick thanks to intraocular lens implants.
Cataract surgery and its risks are essentially the same whether the patient proceeds with surgery as soon as the cloudy cataractous lens begins to interfere significantly with his/her vision and normal daily activities, or if the patient waits until the vision is severely limited by the cataract.
The time to have surgery usually depends on the patient’s visual requirements. When blurred vision makes it difficult for the patient to perform their job, impairs driving, or causes difficulties with hobbies such as sewing and reading, the patient will probably decide it is time to have the cataract removed.
If you are in the Winter Haven, Sebring, Haines City, Lakeland, Clermont, or Lake Wales areas and think that you might have a cataract, contact Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida, P.A. today to schedule a Cataract Consultation to determine if cataract surgery is right for you.