By Satya Reddy, MD, Louisiana Cornea Specialists, Northshore LIVING WELL Magazine
Welcome to another part in my ongoing series about the eye. As the summer winds down, I hope that everyone remembered to wear sunglasses while outdoors. Also, I hope that everyone enjoyed their vacations as they prepare for the holiday season. In previous issues, we discussed dry eye, glaucoma, and cornea transplants. In this issue, we will focus on cataracts.
What is a cataract?
According to Merriam Webster dictionary, a cataract is both (1) a clouding of the lens of the eye that obstructs the passage of light and (2) a large waterfall or downpour. (While we may see cataracts of rain in the summer, this article will focus on the first sort of cataract.) Cataracts in the eye develop over a lifetime; they can be considered “signs of wisdom.” The cumulative effects of a lifetime of sunlight and UV light cause a yellowing of the lens in the eye. This is similar to old car windows that become yellow or hazy over time. Excessive time outdoors and smoking are risk factors for earlier cataracts.
Cataracts begin to form in the seventh decade of life, in a person’s 60s. Early in their progression, cataracts are largely asymptomatic, causing, at most, a slight change in your eyeglasses prescription. As cataracts progress, visual symptoms can start to be noticeable. You may notice a subtle lack of clarity, more glare at night, or a slight haziness to your vision. As the cataracts continue to worsen, you may start to notice increasing difficulty reading, increased sensitivity to bright lights, diminished contrast, or generalized changes in your vision.
What is a “ripe” cataract?
Patients frequently ask if their cataract is “ripe” or how long for it to “ripen.” The “ripening” of a cataract is merely the progression of the cataract until the patient feels his or her vision is affected. Everyone’s cataracts progress and mature at different rates. Once a patient notices degradation of his or her vision that is attributed to cataracts, the cataracts could be considered “ripe.”
Can eye drops “dissolve” or reverse cataracts?
Various companies market eye drops that claim to reverse or dissolve cataracts. No eye drop can reverse a cataract. At most, the eye drop may function as a moisturizing drop. However, some of these claimed medications may have preservatives or other agents that can damage the surface of the eye.
How are cataracts treated?
Cataracts, once they interfere with your vision, are removed with surgery. The surgery is outpatient, meaning that you should be at the hospital or surgery center for only a few hours. Modern cataract surgery has a success rate of 99%. During surgery, the cataract is removed and replaced with a plastic lens to focus the light. After surgery, your vision in that eye will seem blurry for a few days, improving day by day. You should be able to resume regular activities within 24 to 48 hours.
Do I have a choice in the implant lens? Will I need glasses after cataract surgery?
Commonly used implant lens should give you reasonably good distance vision. You may still have to wear glasses to see clearly at distance and will need reading glasses for near vision. In the last five years, newer lens implant designs allow for good vision at distance and near. These lens, called “multifocal” lenses allow the ability to drive, read, and function throughout the day for most activities without reaching for glasses. Some tasks will still require glasses though.
What are multifocal implants and how can they benefit me?
Multifocal lenses are designed with varying focus zones, allowing objects at different distances to be in focus. This lenses allow for activities such as driving, reading, cooking, or golfing without the need for glasses. People who previously wore glasses their entire life can now be glasses-free for most tasks after cataract surgery.
I hope that you have found this information on cataracts educational. Vision deterioration due to cataracts, while part of the aging process, can be treated with excellent results. With multifocal lenses, frequently patients achieve vision better than they had throughout their adult life, free of glasses for most tasks. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call my office.
Satya Reddy, MD is with Louisiana Cornea Specialists and may be reached at 985-893-8290.