By the age of 65, a large percentage of us will develop a cataract, most often typified by cloudy/fuzzy vision. Cataracts result from the normal aging process, but they can also develop due to certain diseases, trauma, medications, or a long-standing exposure to the sun.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens, because of this clouding you may have difficulty seeing in extremely bright light or low lighted conditions. Cataract removal is one of the most common surgeries done in the United States and around the world.

In a healthy eye the clear, natural lens focuses light on the retina, which subsequently sends a signal to the brain to produce the sharp image that we see. With the onset of cataracts, the lens becomes cloudy and light can no longer focus as sharply.

Symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Glare
  • Haloes around light
  • Color vision

There are two types of cataract surgery. Our physicians can explain the differences and help determine which is better for you:

  • Phacoemulsification, or phaco. A small incision is made on the side of the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. The doctor inserts a tiny probe into the eye. This device emits ultrasound waves that soften and break up the lens so that it can be removed by suction. Most cataract surgery today is done by phacoemulsification, also called small incision cataract surgery.
  • Extracapsular surgery. The doctor makes a longer incision on the side of the cornea and removes the cloudy core of the lens in one piece. The rest of the lens is removed by suction.

When to Remove A Cataract

When a cataract begins to interrupt your daily activities and ability to function, it is ready to be removed. Once the cataract or cloudy lens is removed, a lens implant is placed in the eye to help focus light on the retina.

Some people have excellent vision after a corneal transplant. Most patients do have astigmatism and a refractive error such as nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia) after the cornea transplant. Most will require glasses or contact lens to see well at all distances.

Corneal transplantation has restored sight to many who, a generation ago, were blinded permanently by corneal injury, infection, or inherited corneal disease or degeneration.

New Intraocular Lenses (IOL) Options

Cataract surgery can now restore vision and improve your quality of life with the use of an intraocular lens (IOL), after the natural lens has been removed. The IOL implant is a tiny, lightweight, clear plastic disc that is placed in the eye during cataract surgery to replace the eye’s natural lens.

The IOL lens requires no care and becomes a permanent part of your eye. Light is focused clearly by the IOL onto the retina, improving your vision. You will not feel or see the new lens.

An IOL replaces the focusing power of the eye’s natural lens more closely than either contact lenses or glasses. Unlike contact lenses, an IOL implant is permanent.

Click on Lens Implants to read more about the four main types of IOLs and the unique performance result of each type of lens.

Keep in mind that some people are not candidates for an IOL due to complications from other eye problems or disease. Our specialists will discuss the options available for these patients; a soft contact lens, or glasses that provide high magnification, may be suggested.

For more information on cataract surgery in the St. Louis area through Washington University Physicians or to make an appointment, please call 314-996-3300.
Image courtesy of AMO®

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