What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye, which is akin to the lens of a camera. Any distortions will cause an unclear picture of the patient’s environment, with moderate to severe lack of clarity. If left untreated, cataracts can cause progressively worsening vision, even to the stage of blindness. In some cases, cataracts can lead to serious problems such as glaucoma and eye inflammation, which have been known to cause permanent loss of vision that cannot be corrected by cataract surgery.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Common symptoms of cataracts can range from minor visual disturbances to significant visual deficiencies for the afflicted patient. The typical cataract patients that I care for exhibit blurred vision in various ways. Problems with reading, night vision (excessive glare from lights), distorted color perception, sun sensitivity, double or shadowed vision and other complications all stem from having a cataract.
Types of Cataracts
There are many different types of cataracts that a patient may suffer from. Each has its own, unique set of visual problems that need specific surgical procedures, in order to properly diagnose and treat them. Nuclear Cataracts are what patients most commonly suffer from, although others include Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts, Cortical Spoke Cataracts, Anterior Polar Cataracts, Posterior Polar Cataracts, Water Cleft Cataracts and Congenital Nuclear Cataracts. These types of cataracts can either be isolated or coexist in the same eye, which cause overlapping visual deficiencies.
Common Causes of Catacts
While there are a wide range of internal and external factors that lead to the development of cataracts, the most common cause of cataracts is advancing age. Cataracts tend to develop when patients are in their 60’s, but are more frequently seen in patients in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Aside from age, another prominent cause of cataracts is hereditary lens opacities that are usually seen in younger patients and are not the typical Nuclear Cataracts. Trauma plays a role in causing cataracts, with a history of eye injury usually being elicited from the patient and typical findings observed on thorough examination of the eye. Metabolic issues, such as diabetes, myotonic dystrophy and other lesser known maladies have been linked to the formation of cataracts.
How to Remove Cataracts
When it comes to removing cataracts through modern day surgery, the gold standard is phacoemulsification. This method uses sound waves to break up the cataract into tiny pieces so that they can be vacuumed out of the eye, through sub three millimeter incisions. A newer, less proven technique involves the use of lasers, although this technique is still in its infancy and the benefits have yet to be verified. In over 95% of cases that require cataract surgery to be performed, patients have seen significant improvements in overall visual acuity.