A cataract is when the lens of your eye has become cloudy. If you have a cataract, you may notice your vision has become blurry or hazy, you might have double vision, or colors may appear faded or slightly yellowed.
Cataracts commonly occur once you reach 65 or older. By the age of 75 around half of Americans will have had cataracts. The risk factors for early cataracts include:
- A family history of cataracts
- Sun damage and increased exposure to UV rays
- Eye injury or surgery, or radiation on your upper body
- A side effect of some medications
Types of Surgery
During cataract surgery, the surgeon removes the cloudy lens from your eye and replaces it with a clear, artificial lens. This is a small procedure performed with a local anesthetic on an outpatient basis, so patients are free to go home the same day.
The lens can be removed in two ways: using traditional ultrasound energy or using laser-assisted technology.
During this type of surgery, the eye surgeon makes a very small incision at the front of the eye and inserts a thin probe into the lens where the cataract is. The probe transmits ultrasound waves and breaks up the cataract, then sucks it out. The back layer remains to keep the new artificial lens in place. Stitches may or may not be needed, depending on the size of the incision.
With laser-assisted cataract surgery, the surgeon uses a laser to make the necessary incisions at the front of the eye. The laser is also then used to soften the cataract for removal.
One of the main types of lenses used is traditional intraocular lenses (IOLs). Traditional IOLs will improve your vision, but you may still require eyeglasses.
Advanced Technology IOLs are another popular lens choice. These lenses optimize your vision and correct astigmatism, reducing the need for eyeglasses or bifocals. These work by either splitting the light with refraction and diffraction technology or by changing the implant’s focus point, giving a much broader range of focus.
Your vision may be blurry at first, but you should notice an improvement within a few days. Color will be the biggest change you notice, as cataracts have a yellow or brown tint to them and mute the appearance of colors. You may require eyeglasses after the surgery, but you will need to wait a couple of months for your vision to settle down before getting a final prescription.
Eye cataract surgery is a highly successful procedure and restores vision for most patients. Secondary cataracts do sometimes develop, but these are easily treated in a fast, pain-free procedure using a laser beam to make a small opening in the remaining back part of the lens.