A cataract is an opacification or clouding of the lens that affects vision. Vision loss occurs because the cataract blocks the path of light through the eye and prevents proper focus on the retina. The lens is important for focusing light on the retina so that images appear clear and without distortion, and the clouding of the lens during cataract formation distorts vision.
Cataracts are usually a very gradual process of normal aging but can occasionally develop rapidly. They commonly affect both eyes, but it is not uncommon for a cataract in one eye to advance more rapidly. Cataracts are very common, affecting roughly 60 percent of people over the age of 60, and over 1.5 million cataract surgeries are performed in the United States each year.
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
- Decreased vision
- Increased difficulty reading fine print
- Difficulty appreciating colors
- Glare and halos
- Difficulty driving at night
Can I do anything to prevent cataract formation?
Unfortunately, no, as most cataracts are age-related, and everyone who lives long enough will develop cataracts. Factors that can cause premature cataract formation include:
- UV exposure
- Radiation therapy
- Steroid use
How are cataracts treated?
The standard treatment for cataracts is surgery. The opacified lens is removed and an Intraocular Lens implant (IOL) is usually put in its place. Cataract surgery is a very common procedure that provides the surgeon with an opportunity to decrease a patient’s dependence on glasses. There are a number of IOL options available. These options, as well as the risks and benefits of surgery, will be explained by the surgeon.
Lens Implant and Refractive Choices after Cataract Surgery
- Allows for excellent distance vision.
- Does not correct for near (reading) or intermediate (computer) vision.
- You will most likely need glasses for reading and computer.
- Covered by Medicare and other insurance.
- Standard lenses are used in both eyes.
- The non-dominant eye is made to be nearsighted so reading and potentially computer vision (or vice versa) can be accomplished without glasses.
- One eye is clear for distance and the other eye is blurry for distance.
- One eye is clear for near and the other eye is blurry for near.
- Allows for the opportunity to decrease your dependence on glasses.
- Does not have significant side effects of glare and halo.
- May require an adjustment period as the brain learns how to use the two eyes with separate functions.
- Covered by Medicare and other insurance.
- Specially made lens implant that offsets astigmatism on the cornea. Astigmatism is a common condition of the eye that causes two different focal points, resulting in blurry vision.
- Standard lens implant corrects one focal point and glasses are required to correct for the second focal point.
- A toric lens implant corrects both focal points, which reduces dependence on glasses at a distance (glasses for reading are still required).
- Insurance does not cover the complete cost of the lens, so an out-of-pocket expense is required to pay for the difference.
- Not everyone is a candidate for a toric lens. A complete evaluation by your surgeon is required to establish candidacy.
- Lenses are specially made to allow for an expanded range of vision without glasses when compared to a standard lens.
- Offers an opportunity to decrease dependence on glasses.
- You can have functional vision at distance, intermediate and near but not necessarily perfect vision at each distance. Side effects include but are not limited to glare and halo (typically dissipates over the ensuing months), neuroadaptation (the brain needs to learn how to use the lenses), over-correction or under-correction.
- The procedure and partial cost of the lens is covered by Medicare and other insurance, but expenses for extra eye measurements and for the advanced technology of the lens is the responsibility of the patient. Extra measurements include:
- Corneal mapping
- Pupil size
- Corneal thickness
- Dominant eye
- Immersion and/or IOL master eye length measurement
There are three types of presbyopic lenses. Crystalens® is a pseudo-accommodative IOL that helps to increase your range of vision by simulating accommodation (the eye’s ability to focus on a near target).
An alternative to the Crystalens implant is a multifocal lens. There are two main multifocal lenses, including ReStor® and ReZoom®, and each has strengths and weaknesses.
The professionals at Eye Consultants of Syracuse can help you decide if surgery is your best option. Eye Consultants has trained physicians on staff who specialize in cataract disease and surgery. These surgeons have years of experience with both standard and complex cases and have been trained in the most up-to-date techniques and instrumentation.
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