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Facts About Cataracts


Submitted by Eye Surgical Associates

Cataracts are one of the leading causes of reversible blindness in the United States. However, the longer cataracts are left untreated, the more difficult it can be to successfully remove the cataract and restore vision. During Cataract Awareness Month in June, Eye Surgical Associates reminds you that early detection and treatment of cataracts is critical to preserving sight.

What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens of the eye. The lens is about the size of an M&M candy and sits just behind the colored iris in your eye. When you are born, the lens is clear, but with time, it becomes cloudy and it can affect your vision.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Cataracts can cause a wide range of vision problems.

•    Cloudy or blurred vision
•    Faded or dull colors and difficulty distinguishing between colors such as navy blue, brown, and black
•    Sensitivity to light. Lights may be uncomfortably bright or appear to glare or have halos around them.
•    Poor night vision. Initially, more light is needed to read, and eventually it becomes very difficult to see things in the dark, particularly when driving.
•    Problems with depth perception, such as judging the depth of a bathtub or the height of a curb
•    In rare cases, having double vision

How can I prevent cataracts?
Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process and they affect more than 20.5 million Americans over 40. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. However, certain things can contribute to how early or quickly cataracts develop. Certainly, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, wearing UV protecting sunglasses, and living a healthy, active lifestyle, are all important precautions that can reduce or slow down cataracts. Still, there is nothing that can be done to totally prevent cataracts from forming.

Do cataracts spread from one eye to the other?
If there are cataracts in both eyes, it’s due to the same causative factor that affected each eye, not that one eye “caught” the disease from the other.

What is the treatment for cataracts?
Surgery to remove cataracts is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States, with more than 3 million taking place each year and a success rate of 96 percent. With a success rate this high, it’s actually one of the safest procedures in modern medicine. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed through a small cut in the cornea and replaced with a clear, artificial lens called an intraocular implant or intraocular lens. The procedure takes 10 to 15 minutes to perform, and patients remain awake the entire time.

Can cataracts “grow back” after surgery?
Cataracts are the accumulation of dead cells, not a growth. During cataract surgery, the lens and the accumulated dead cells are removed, which eliminates the potential for a cataract to return. Following surgery, a patient might still develop what’s called a secondary cataract, if the capsule that holds the implant becomes cloudy. This can be treated with a quick, painless laser procedure performed in a doctor’s office.

How will my vision be affected by cataract surgery?
In most cases, cataract surgery drastically reduces a person’s need to wear glasses, depending on the type of implant used. Nevertheless, some people may still find the need to wear glasses after cataract surgery, for reading, driving, or seeing things at a distance. For those who want the best visual acuity without the need for full-time glasses, specialty implants, and blade-free laser cataract surgery options are available.

If you would like more information about vision health or to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, contact ESA Eye Surgical Associates at 309-662-7700. Ophthalmologists Daniel Brownstone, Catharine Crockett, Scott Pinter, and Optometrist Kathleen Vize will be happy to assist you. ESA is located at 1505 Eastland Drive Suite 2200, Bloomington.