Nearly 25 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts, one of the most curable causes of vision loss. In recognition of Cataract Awareness Month, the board-certified ophthalmologists at The Eye Clinic want to debunk the myths about cataracts and remind people they don’t have to live with vision loss from cataracts.
A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s normally clear lens, blocking the passage of light needed for vision. Cataracts form slowly and cause no pain. Some stay small and have minimal effect on vision, but if the cataract does grow and begin to affect your vision, it can usually be removed with surgery.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide; however, in most cases, vision loss from cataracts is reversible. New techniques developed over the past decade have made cataract surgery one of the safest and most successful procedures available in terms of restoring quality of life to patients. In fact, cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States, with an estimated 3 million procedures performed each year.
There are no drugs or exercises that will make a cataract disappear, and contrary to popular belief, cataracts are not removed using lasers. Lasers are used in follow-up procedures if needed.
Cataract surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia. The cloudy natural lens can be replaced with an artificial lens to give the eye proper focusing power. In most cases, the improvement in the patient’s vision is profound, even more so with the latest advances in premium lens implants that have become available in recent years. Many patients are able to see clearly without glasses after surgery.
So how do you know if you have a cataract? Some people notice a gradual painless blurring of vision, double vision in one eye or fading or yellowing of colors. When older patients mention sensitivity to glare and/or bright light or trouble driving at night, this may be caused by cataracts. Or, if a patient needs frequent changes to his or her glasses or contact lens prescriptions, they should be evaluated for a cataract.
A common myth is that a cataract has to be “ripe” before it’s removed. That’s not true. The best time to have a cataract removed is when it starts to interfere with the things you need and/or want to do. The best person to decide when it’s time to have them removed is you, under the care of a qualified eye surgeon.
For more information about cataracts, cataract surgery and advanced lens implant options, call The Eye Clinic at (337) 478-3810.