Millions of Americans are living with the dull, clouded vision of cataracts. A cataract is the clumping of proteins on the natural lens of the eye. The accumulation of these proteins hardens the lens and causes clouding. Normally, the lens of the eye is transparent. When clouding begins, colors may appear less vibrant, with somewhat of a yellow tinge. Over time, dullness turns to increasingly stronger cloudiness, like a fog bank over the eyes. The National Eye Institute estimates that approximately half of all Americans will have had a cataract by the age of 80. Most people who have cataracts do not have them removed until later in life. However, with advances in ophthalmic surgery, we are seeing more people seek cataract-removal surgery at a younger age.
About Cataract Surgery
Cataract removal surgery is conducted in the ophthalmologist’s office. Patient comfort is maintained with a local anesthetic, eye drops that numb the eyes.
The surgical procedure is streamlined and does not take very long. Patients are typically back at home within a few hours.
During the procedure, a tiny incision is made to remove the natural lens that has become cloudy and rigid. The capsule of tissue that holds the lens is observed to ensure protein deposits have all been removed. Finally, the new lens, called an intraocular lens or IOL, is placed into the capsule. A small stitch may be inserted to secure the new lens.
Cataract Surgery Decisions to be Made
- First, a patient must find an ophthalmologist who has experience performing cataract-removal surgery.
- Visits with this doctor will provide the detailed information needed to decide when to have cataract-removal surgery.
- When surgery is the next step, the ophthalmologist will discuss options for lens replacement. A variety of intraocular lenses are available today, some of which have vision-correcting qualities.
- Before surgery, the potential risks and expectations of surgery are discussed. All patient questions are answered.
Cataract removal surgery takes out the clouded lens and puts a transparent lens back in its place. In many cases, patients who undergo cataract removal surgery not only see more clearly but also have less of a need for eyeglasses.