A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Metabolic and/or structural changes within tightly packed crystallin proteins which make up the lens alter their transparent status. When this happens, the light is blocked and scattered, and therefore the image we see is blurred. It can be compared to a window that is frosted, or “fogged” with steam.For most people, cataracts are the natural result of ageing. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss among adults 55 and over. Additionally, some children are born with cataracts. Eye injuries, certain medications (e.g, steroids), and diseases (e.g, diabetes) can also cause cataracts, as can smoking and heavy drinking.Most cataracts associated with ageing progress gradually over a period of years. Cataracts in younger people, and people with diabetes, may progress rapidly over a few months and cause vision to worsen.
- Decreased vision interferes with daily activities, such as reading, driving and watching television.
- Optometrists can no longer help with glasses.
A clear plastic intraocular lens (IOL) implant is inserted as a replacement. Most surgeons recommend that distance vision is corrected with the implant and that reading glasses are used post operatively. Monovision, that is the correction of one eye for distance and one for near is a good alternative for those who wish to be without glasses.There are many multifocal and accommodative lenses on the market but all require significant neuroadaptation on the part of the patient and are not a one size fits all answer. Moreover, significant side effects exist. Currently, these lenses are in the middle of the development stage to a definitive lens that will, one day, truly replace the crystalline lens and allow genuine focusing. We are not there yet.
Patients with Astigmatism can also have treatment to reduce or minimize this error at the time of surgery. Complications are rare but can include infection, haemorrhage and retinal detachment.
You do not have to live with cataracts and allow them to interfere with your everyday activities. If you believe you may be developing one, please see an ophthalmologist. Worldwide, Cataract surgery is the safest and most successful procedure performed today.