A cataract is a clouding or opacity of the crystalline lens, or focusing element of the eye. This natural lens is situated just behind the pupil. With the help of the cornea, it focuses the light rays on the retina. Technically speaking, any opacity of the lens is a cataract, but generally we only use the term when the clouding is sufficient to significantly reduce vision. The name for “cataracts” came from the ancient Greeks. The white appearance of far advanced cataracts reminded them of the white waters or rapids and waterfalls which are also called cataracts. Today, however, only far advanced and neglected cataracts ever reach the stage of being white.
Cataracts cause blurring and dimming of vision. They disperse light and cause glare, especially when out in the sun and around lights at night. Some people complain of a film over their eyes or glasses and try in vain to blink or rub it away.
As the natural lens becomes more cloudy it often swells causing a change in the optics which sometimes makes it possible to read without glasses.
Patients with this “second sight” will find, however, that their distance vision will become more blurred and eventually their near vision will also dim.
In order to determine the cause of blurred vision a complete eye examination is required, which includes examining the front part of the eye, including the lens, with a biomicroscope (often called a slit lamp) and the back part of the eye with an ophthalmoscope.
When cataracts are in the early stages of development, changing the power of the patient’s glasses will often improve vision. Once they progress to the point where changing the glasses does not help, the only method of restoring the lost vision is by surgical removal of the cataract.
If your eye is otherwise healthy, modern cataract surgery can lead to improved vision in more than 95% of cases. That is not 100%, but still, the odds are definitely in your favor.
Once a cataract starts to form, the visual impairment is progressive. Certain types of congenital cataracts tend to remain stable and are the exception to this rule. There are many types of cataracts and we can tell you if your type is likely to progress slowly or rapidly.
Since 1984, we have done almost all of our cataract implant operations on an outpatient basis. One reason our patients do so well with outpatient surgery is that it demands no more change in their daily routine than is absolutely necessary.
It usually takes several weeks for the eye to heal completely. During that time we will need to see you in the office for periodic follow-up visits.
Most patients are able to return to office type work in a few days and to manual labor after one week.