Cataracts are part of the normal aging process. In fact, people can have age-related cataracts in their 40’s and 50’s. The human crystalline lens is only completely clear until that age when it starts developing yellowing, clouding and hardening. These opacities are referred to as “cataractous lens changes” or simply, cataract. Early on these minor lens changes don’t cause any perceptible visual decrease for the patient, so no therapy is needed. As the clouding increases however, visual tasks become difficult and at some point cataract surgery is needed to restore vision. In fact, the need for cataract surgery is so common, that it is said that everyone will need cataract surgery if they live long enough. Sufferers usually describe the condition as being similar to looking through a piece of wax paper, or a gradual blurring or dimming of vision. Reading, computer use and TV watching may become more difficult, and driving a car, especially at night, can actually become dangerous. Cataract patients may also be troubled by bothersome glare, halos around lights, or even double vision. As the cataract becomes worse, frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions may become necessary.
Currently there are no medical treatments to reverse or prevent the development of cataracts. Once they form, there is only one way to achieve clear vision again, and that is to physically remove the cataract from the eye with surgery. Cataract surgery is for those who:
- Find that their quality of life has been impaired by poor vision
- Have been diagnosed with cataracts
- Are willing to undergo a short, usually painless surgical procedure to restore vision
The art and science of cataract surgery has progressed dramatically over the last thirty years. Years ago, patients were practically blind before surgery was considered, because surgery was riskier, took a long time to heal, and visual results were imperfect.
Nowadays, surgery is quick, relatively painless, much safer, and with vision results that correct not only the cloudy lens, but nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism and presbyopia (loss of ability to focus) as well.