Dr. Felise Barte, Glaucoma Specialist, Cataract Surgery and Comprehensive Ophthalmologist, lends her expertise on cataracts and what you should know about this eye condition.
Nearly 24 million Americans have cataracts, making them one of the leading causes of blindness. Cataracts occur naturally with aging and manifest as a gradual clouding of the eye’s lens.
To understand a cataract, it’s important to understand how the normal eye works. Light enters the front of the eye, goes through the lens, and focuses on one part in the back of the eye (retina) so we can see clearly. With a cataract, the lens is clouded, so all the light is scattered in the back of the eye, which causes blurry vision.
There are several causes of cataracts, but the primary cause is aging, which is why it is important to have your eyes checked regularly throughout your lifetime. Development can begin as early as age 40, and by age 80, if cataracts have gone untreated, vision loss may occur. Cataracts may develop earlier for people who have had previous trauma or injury to the eye, sun or bright light exposure, or have diabetes. They can also develop earlier based on genetics. Wearing sunglasses can slow cataract development, and, if diabetic, optimum blood sugar control is important.
Symptoms of cataracts include blurry vision, glare while driving at night, double vision, light sensitivity, and a dull appearance of color. If you notice any changes in your vision, contact an ophthalmologist immediately to be screened for cataracts.
Advancements in treatment options have improved vastly in the last 10 years, allowing patients to experience surgery with minimal discomfort and downtime. When the cataract initially forms, corrective glasses or contact lenses can help improve vision to some extent. Eventually, the cataract will worsen, and surgery will be needed. Standard cataract surgery is outpatient surgery where the cataract is removed, and a lens implant is placed. There is an array of advanced technology lens implants that have revolutionized the ability for cataract patients to rely less on glasses for distant, intermediate and near vision. Depending on the health of one’s eye prior to cataract surgery, advanced technology lenses are made in such a way that patients can drive and use a smartphone or computer without glasses.
Traditional lens implants can help improve distance vision, but all patients will need glasses for intermediate/near work. Traditional lens implants do not address astigmatism either. Depending on the degree of astigmatism, patients who have astigmatism will need to wear glasses all the time for distance, intermediate and near vision.
Cataracts do not come back. However, in 25 percent of patients, after cataract surgery a membrane can start growing over the lens implant. This membrane can cloud one’s vision, giving the impression the cataract has come back. If the membrane is affecting one’s vision, an in-office laser procedure is used to open the membrane and restore vision.
With plenty of new technologies available to help those with cataracts live without sight constraint, there is no need to put off being treated for cataracts. Your ophthalmologist can examine, diagnose, educate, and treat your condition with optimal results.
Watch our video featuring Dr. Felise Barte, ophthalmologist specializing in Glaucoma, Cataract Surgery and Comprehensive Ophthalmology where she answers some of the most frequently asked questions about cataracts.