Your eye’s lens is made of water and protein. As we age, protein build-up can occur in the lens, causing it to become clouded. The protein build-up blocks light from entering the eye. This leads to vision loss, which can eventually lead to blindness. According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, cataracts are responsible for about 35% of global blindness.
A cataract is the clouding of the lens in your eye. The eye’s lens should be clear to allow light to pass through to the retina. The retina is a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of your eye. When a cataract develops, the eye’s lens can appear yellow, brown, or milky white. When the lens becomes clouded, vision becomes blurry.
Cataract formation is part of the natural aging process, and that’s why aging is its most common risk factor. Although, sometimes cataracts can also occur as a result of additional risk factors such as diabetes, glaucoma, anabolic steroid use, and complications from previous eye injuries. Rarely, cataracts can be present from birth. If left untreated, childhood cataracts lead to permanent blindness.
Cataracts cause vision to be blurred like looking out of a dusty windshield. Colors can become faded or washed out and it can be difficult to see details. Lights can cause you to see halos around them. It may be difficult for you to see at night or in low light situations. You could have a sensitivity to light where lights appear very bright or glared. Other symptoms include double vision or seeing multiple images in one eye.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, or if you have had frequent changes in the prescription of your glasses and/or contact lenses, make an appointment with your optometrist to check your vision and to see if you have a cataract. It is especially important if you are over 60 years old to have an eye exam to check for eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
There are no medications to restore vision to the eye once you have a cataract. The only option is to have cataract surgery to remove the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). If your cataract is interfering with normal, everyday activities, it is recommended to have cataract surgery promptly to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a new one. If you have been diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes, surgery can be spaced out about 2-4 weeks apart.
If you are not yet experiencing any of the symptoms from the cataract, you can wait to have surgery if your eye doctor doesn’t observe any complications from the cataract. Sometimes, the presence of the cataract can affect the pressure in your eye, so be sure to have regular exams with your physician. In the case of childhood cataracts, it is imperative to proceed with surgery soon after diagnosis to prevent permanent vision loss and blindness.
Cataract surgery is a very common procedure with a high success rate. Millions of cataract surgeries are performed in the United States annually, with the vast majority having excellent visual outcomes.
Quit smoking and limit consumption of alcoholic beverages
Wear sunglasses and glasses with UV protection
Maintain a healthy and balanced plant-based diet
A 2011 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that cataract risk was highest for those who ate more than 3.5 ounces of meat per day.
The potential for developing a cataract increases with age. As the lens ages, protein build-up is a common and likely occurrence. About 50% of people ages 75-59 are affected by cataracts and about 70% of those over 80 years old are affected (US National Institutes of Health).
During adult cataract surgery, you are given a local anesthetic. The procedure usually lasts about 20 minutes. A small incision is made along the side of the cornea, and the cataract is broken into fragments. The fragments are gently removed from the eye using a suctioning device. A replacement artificial lens is inserted into the same area where the natural lens was. The incision heals without the need for stitches. After cataract surgery, the patient can usually go home without the need for overnight observation. A protective shield is used to protect the eye during the early stages of recovery. The shield is then removed during the postoperative exam the next day.
There have been many advances in the intraocular lenses used for replacement during cataract surgery. Coastal Vision Medical is one of the only practices in Southern California offering the RxSight™ Light Adjustable Lens. This is the first and only lens that can be customized after cataract surgery. With traditional intraocular lenses (IOLs), your physician performs measurements before your surgery in order to select the best IOL to try to achieve your vision goals. Traditionally, the intraocular lens implanted during cataract surgery has a predetermined lens power that must be selected by your physician before surgery for vision correction. Once your surgery is complete and the IOL has been implanted, your physician has limited options to adjust the lens power.
With the RxSight™ Light Adjustable Lens, you and your doctor can now customize your vision after your eye has healed from cataract surgery. This is because the Light Adjustable Lens is made of a special photosensitive material that changes the shape and power of your implanted lens in response to ultraviolet (UV) light. You and your physician will have the unique ability to adjust and preview your vision until it meets your personal desires and lifestyle requirements.
Dr. Dan B Tran and Dr. Ashley Owyang from Coastal Vision Medical recently published a study in the Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology demonstrating that patients may now have the option to choose a replacement lens that suits their vision correction needs based on distance. This is exciting news for the future of cataract surgery!
You will need to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor before you have cataract surgery. The exam will include a refraction test, measurements for your IOL, and an overall assessment of your condition. Be sure to address any questions or concerns you may have about your condition or surgery with your doctor at this time. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home after cataract surgery. Your doctor will provide you with instructions to follow for recovery.
Visit Coastal Vision Medical at one of our convenient locations in Irvine, Long Beach, Norco, or Orange, CA today!