Get your vision back.
What is a cataract?
The lens of your eye is responsible for focusing incoming light before it strikes the retina, the light-sensitive part of your eye, to produce an image.
This lens can become cloudy and hard, a condition known as a cataract. Cataracts can develop from normal aging, from an eye injury, or if you have taken medications known as steroids. Cataracts cause a range of vision problems, and if they are interfering with your daily life, they need to be removed through surgery.
- Cloudy or blurry vision, and distortion of vision in either eye including ghost images
- Lights are too bright and/or give off a glare or a halo
- Poor night vision
- Colors seem faded
- Increasing nearsightedness that affects eyeglass prescriptions
Cataracts tend to grow slowly. An early cataract may only affect a small portion of your lens, and you may not notice a change in your vision. With time, however, the cataract will cloud more of your lens and lead to progressive vision loss.
Types of Cataracts
Although all cataracts involve a hardening and discoloration of your lens, there are actually several different types of cataracts and eye doctor may diagnose you with. These cataracts may affect one or both of your eyes, and the rate of cataract development may be different for each eye.
Congenital Cataract: some people may be born with cataracts or develop them in early childhood. Often, these cataracts are related to genetic factors.
Posterior Subcapsular Cataract: this type of cataract affects the posterior side of the lens. This cataract directly interferes with incoming light, which can diminish your reading vision and ability to see in brightly-lit places.
Cortical Cataract: this type of cataract first affects the edges of the lens. With time, streaks progress from the lens’ edge towards the center. This can lead to blurred vision, cause you to see blurry lines vision, or reduce your night vision.
Nuclear Cataract: this frequently age related cataract occurs when the center of the lens begins to harden and become discolored. This can lead to nearsightedness, and you may turn to corrective lenses for some relief. However, as the cataract grows, vision loss will increase. The discoloration may also make distinguishing between colors more challenging.
Getting a regular eye exam is important for your eye health generally, but they are especially important for addressing vision changes related to cataract development.
Because cataract symptoms may look like other eye conditions, you should meet with one of our eye care doctors as soon as you experience vision problems. If we determine you do have a cataract, surgery may be the best option to help restore your vision.
Cataract surgery is a safe and regularly performed surgery. Our ophthalmologists are experts at cataract surgery, and we’ll personalize your treatment for your unique needs. In order to correct your vision, one of our eye surgeons will remove your affected lens and replace it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). There are different types of IOLs to meet different visual needs (read on to learn more) The IOL will remain in your eye permanently, providing you with clear vision.
If you wear contact lenses, you will need to stop wearing them for a minimum of 2-3 weeks before your surgery. A week before your surgery, you will have a preoperative eye exam to help determine what IOL is best for you. You may be instructed to stop eating and drinking 12 hours before your surgery. If you take any prescription medications, you should talk with your doctor beforehand to avoid any complications.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient surgery; this means you’ll be able to go home the same day. However, you will not be able to drive right after your surgery, so you should arrange for someone to pick you up afterwards. You should be able to return to doing the things you love in two to three days!
It’s important to understand that because you had a cataract, you will eventually develop presbyopia, a condition where your eye loses its ability to shift from distance to near vision. Presbyopia is the reason that reading glasses become necessary, typically after age 40, even for people who had excellent distance and near vision without glasses. You will need bifocals or separate (different prescription) reading glasses in order to see clearly at close range.
Types of IOLs
There are several options regarding the IOLs available to you to achieve distance and near vision after cataract surgery. This is probably the most important decision you need to make about your cataract surgery, so we will discuss the many options you have and customize your treatment plan around your decision. The initial placement of the IOL should be accurate, but in some cases further adjustments are necessary to correct vision. The various types of artificial lenses include:
Monofocal IOL: This type of artificial lens is very common. It provides for good distance vision, making it convenient for activities like driving. However, if you do get monofocal IOLs, you may be dependent on reading glasses to see things up close.
Multifocal IOL: This type of IOL is designed to give you clear vision at all distances. This means that you are less likely to depend on glasses for a variety of daily activities. However, multifocal IOLs provide less clarity when it comes to distance vision and night vision, which can be problematic for certain occupations. Additionally, multifocals may not be suitable for you if you have an underlying eye disease like macular degeneration, as this IOL requires good visual capacity in both eyes.
Accommodating IOL: Unlike monofocal or multifocal IOLs, which remain in a fixed position, accommodating IOLs are able to shift and adjust to objects at varying distances. This means you can be reading glasses free without compromising on distance vision. Accommodating IOLs may also be used to treat presbyopia, a condition where your eye loses its ability to shift from distance to near vision. Because these types of lenses are not considered medical necessities, there may be a higher out-of-pocket cost associated with them.
Toric IOL: A toric lens is a type of IOL designed to treat cataracts and astigmatism. Astigmatism is an eye condition in which your eye is not completely round, which affects the way light enters your eye and therefore affects your eye’s ability to focus. Astigmatism is common both before and after cataract surgery, and it may leave you dependent on reading glasses. During surgery, your eye surgeon can rotate the Toric lens so that it corrects for astigmatism. This way, you get rid of two eye problems in one go!
Talk to your eye doctor about what type of IOL is best for you. Your doctor may recommend a different IOl for each eye, depending on your vision needs. It is also important to keep cost in mind; your insurance may not cover more specialized IOLs, such as toric and accommodating IOLs. Our eye care professionals will help you make the best choice for you.
Dr. Richard Davidson MD, Ophthalmologist | UCHealth
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