As we age, the proteins that make up the lenses of our eyes break down and form clusters, which causes our natural lens to become cloudy and hazy over time.
Cataracts progress gradually for the most part, although it can vary. Most age-related cataracts develop over a matter of years, however, in some conditions, like diabetes, cataracts can develop rapidly.
Cataracts progress so slowly that most people don’t realize they have the condition until its later stages. When symptoms become more pronounced, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and/or “halos” around bright lights (especially at night) are common. Other symptoms include double vision, a faded or yellowish hue to bright colors, and the need to frequently adjust your eyeglass prescription.
Eye doctors have not yet found a proven method of preventing cataracts, however, there are some lifestyle factors that may increase you risk of developing cataracts. It is suggested that to maintain eye health one should avoid smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive exposure to sunlight, and manage obesity and other health problems. Some eye doctors also recommend a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants, to reduce your risk of developing cataracts.
Cataract surgery is the only complete cure for cataracts. However, in the short term, your doctor may suggest you submit to regular eye exams and correct your vision with a stronger eyeglass or contact lens prescription in lieu of cataract surgery. In these cases, your doctor will only recommend surgery once your cataracts compromise your quality of life and ability to perform everyday tasks like reading, watching television, and driving at night
Some patients may need cataract surgery if they suffer from age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. By having surgery even if your cataracts have yet to affect your eyesight, you will be able to receive treatment for these more serious conditions sooner.
The timing of cataract surgery can depend largely on the individual patient. If vision impairment from cataracts is negatively affecting your day to day life, it might be time to consider cataract surgery.
An eye surgeon numbs the nerves in and around your eye with a local anesthetic. Then, after making a small incision, the surgeon removes the cataract-clouded lens and replaces it with a new intraocular lens made of plastic, silicone, or acrylic. The incision is then closed, concluding an outpatient operation that typically takes under 15 minutes. Over the course of the recovery process, the intraocular lens fuses with the eye and becomes a permanent part of the eye’s structure.
The procedure ranks among the safest medical treatments available for vision correction, and more than 3 million cataract surgeries are performed in the United States every year. As with any surgery, there is a risk of bleeding and infection, and more serious complications like retinal detachment are possible, but rare. Your doctor will go over the possible risks prior to the operation.
A full recovery from cataract surgery typically takes about four weeks. Immediately after your surgery, your vision will be blurry as a result of your eye adjusting to the replacement lens. In our dry climate here, dry eye can cause blurring of vision and discomfort after cataract surgery, and it is critical that proper dry eye care be followed. Talk with your doctor about what dry eye care you may need.
Generally our guidelines are that you should avoid lifting over 10-15 pounds for a week and avoid pools/hot tubs for a week. Further, you may only resume driving after you get your doctor’s permission to do so. If you experience severe pain or don’t believe your recovery is progressing on schedule, contact your eye care specialist immediately.
Patients can choose from a variety of options that could reduce your need for glasses. Depending on the type of option you select, you may still need to wear glasses after surgery. That said, whichever option you select, your vision will be clearer and brighter after cataract surgery.
The cost of cataract surgery depends on a number of factors, including the type of replacement lens used and the surgical technique — laser or traditional — deployed during the operation. If you have private health insurance or Medicare, the cost of cataract surgery will likely be partially or completely covered.
Always check with your insurer to see exactly what is and is not covered. Insurers may only pay for the surgery once the insured’s vision has deteriorated to the point where it negatively impacts their daily activities. At ICON Eyecare, we work with our patients to craft affordable financing plans that meet their financial needs.
If your eye doctor deems cataract surgery as medically necessary, Medicare will pay 80% of the total costs associated with the procedure. Medicare will also cover one pair of post-cataract surgery eyeglasses.
The short answer is no. However, some patients report experiencing blurry vision reminiscent of their preoperative vision years after cataract surgery. These “secondary cataracts” occur when scar tissue forms around the lens capsule that holds replacement lenses in place. Undergoing a simple outpatient procedure known as a YAG laser capsulotomy can resolve this issue.
Cataracts and Glaucoma are both conditions that cause the loss of vision. However, a cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens over time, causing vision to become hazy, whereas, Glaucoma is a condition in which there is a buildup of pressure in the eyes that causes damage to the optic nerve that if not treated can result in irreversible blindness. Cataracts and Glaucoma can both be treated surgically and the outcomes are generally positive, however, in the case of Glaucoma, early diagnosis and treatment is necessary because the loss of vision cannot be reversed, as it can with cataract surgery.