DiagnosisInformation about the conditions we treat at Laurel Eye Physicians.
CataractsWe are all born with a lens in our eye, behind the iris. It is clear when we are born, and it is called the crystalline lens. As we get older, it gradually clouds, and then it is called a cataract. It is a natural change in a normal structure with which we are born. It is not a growth or a tumor, and its presence does not threaten the health of the eye. A cataract is a normal and inevitable consequence of aging. Just as gray hair and wrinkles naturally occur as we age, so do cataracts.
There are certain factors that predispose to development of cataracts at an earlier age, such as eye trauma, diabetes, or a long history of chronic systemic treatment with corticosteroids (i.e. prednisone). Smoking will also accelerate the development of cataracts.
Simply having a cataract does not mean that cataract surgery is necessary. The reason to remove a cataract is to improve your vision. When the cataract interferes with your ability to see well enough to do the things you want and need to do, then it is time to consider cataract surgery. In cataract surgery, the cloudy lens (cataract) is removed, and a man-made lens is implanted in its place. This synthetic lens remains, and the cataract does not “grow back.” Everyone develops some amount of scarring behind the lens implant after cataract surgery, and this can occur months to years after surgery. Occasionally, this scarring, called posterior capsule opacification, causes blurred vision and/or problems with glare. If and when the symptoms interfere with the quality of vision, a painless laser procedure can be done in the office to break up the scar tissue and restore better vision.
Cataract surgery is still always done in an operating room, at a hospital or in a surgery center, on an outpatient basis. You receive intravenous anesthesia to relax you, but you are not “knocked out” or put on a ventilator. The procedure takes approximately 10-15 minutes, and you return home the same day. Generally, an eye patch is not even necessary, and you start using post-operative eye drops (antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops) the same day. You return to see your doctor the following day, at which time he or she will inform you when it is safe to resume driving.
For cataract surgery, both eyes are never operated on at the same time. One can be done, and it may be years before the other eye is done; or they may be done as close to one week apart, depending on your individual circumstances. These are details that your doctor will discuss with you.
Your doctor will also discuss your options for intraocular lens implantation. The lens implant is standard (prior to the availability of these lens implants, the eye was left without anything to replace its natural lens, and this necessitated the “Coke-bottle” glasses that you may have seen before). There are various types of lens implants: traditional monofocal implants, toric or astigmatic implants, and multifocal or accommodative implants (so-called “premium” implants). This is a very individual decision, the details of which your doctor will discuss with you to help you choose the most appropriate option for your needs.
If you are concerned that you may have a cataract that is interfering with your quality of life and quality of vision, please call our office to make an appointment.