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What Are Cataracts?

A cataract is a slow, progressive clouding of the eye's natural lens. It interferes with light passing through the eye to the retina.

Cataracts are caused by a change in the proteins of the eye, which causes clouding or discoloration of the lens. Over time cataracts typically result in blurred or fuzzy vision and sensitivity to light.

People with progressed cataracts often describe the sensation as looking through a piece of wax paper. A cataract may make light from the sun or a lamp seem too bright, causing glare. Colors may not appear as bright as they once did, however, most cataracts develop so slowly that people usually don’t realize that their color vision has markedly deteriorated. Gradual vision loss can lead to falls and fractures, which is especially serious for the aging population that cataracts typically affects.

Oncoming headlights may cause uncomfortable glare at night, making driving more difficult. There is a myth that cataracts have to “ripen’ before they can be removed. This was true before about 1930, when the surgical technique to remove cataracts was quite primitive and the surgical outcome was essentially awful, even in uncomplicated cases.

Patients essentially had to be blind from their cataract before surgery, so they could appreciate the poor vision that their very thick glasses provided afterward. These days, when the average cataract patient usually sees better after surgery than his peers who may have a minimal cataract, we wait until the patient finds that the cataract is interfering in his lifestyle.

Patients have cataract surgery because they are having difficulty seeing the golf ball, or reading the financial pages, or have difficulty driving at night. The most common response on the day after surgery is, “When can I have the other eye done?” followed by “Why did I wait so long?”.

arrow-circle-right-7-video arrow-circle-right-7-video-light Causes of Cataracts (click to show)
  1. Getting Older - Age is a major cause of developing cataracts.
  2. A birth defect like abnormal conditions in the eyes of unborn babies
  3. Environmental factors such as disease, toxic chemicals, medications
  4. Accidents or Injuries
  5. Exposure to ultraviolet light
  6. Cigarette Smoking
arrow-circle-right-7-video arrow-circle-right-7-video-light Cataract Symptoms (click to show)
  1. Need more light to read
  2. Frustration from bright lights
  3. Night Driving Problems
  4. Increased eyestrain
  5. Double Vision
  6. Cloudy, fuzzy and blurry vision
  7. Colors seem faded or yellowish
  8. Frequent changes in eyeglass prescription

Cataract Surgery

Using the most up to date methods and instrumentation, Dr. Sullivan typically performs cataract surgery using a small incision phacoemulsification technique. This means that the cataract surgery is accomplished using the smallest possible incision, and removal of the lens material is accomplished using an ultrasonic probe.

There is a common misconception that cataract surgery is done using a laser. This is not the case and has never been the case. The use of laser energy produces too much heat to be adapted for this purpose and would cause irreversible damage to the delicate tissues inside the eye.

Click the titles below to show more about each part of the cataract treatment process:

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arrow-circle-right-7-video arrow-circle-right-7-video-light The Procedure

Following proper dilation of the pupil and preparation of the surgical area using betadine or other cleansers, a topical anesthetic is administered to the surface of the eye. An incision of 2.5 to 3 millimeters in length is then created at the junction of the cornea (the clear domed structure on the front of the eye) and the sclera (the white part of the eye).

Another dose of anesthetic is then administered inside the eye through this incision. The front part of the lens envelope, known as the lens capsule, is carefully opened so that the lens material can be removed. This is accomplished using a needle-like ultrasonic device, which pulverizes the hardened and yellowed lens proteins. The pulverized material is simultaneously vacuumed from the eye.

Once all of the cataract material has been removed, and assuming that the lens capsule which was opened at the beginning of the surgery remains strong enough to support the lens implant, a folded intraocular lens specifically chosen by the surgeon to suit your individual needs is then inserted through the original incision and maneuvered into the lens capsule and then centered. The lens will remain inside your eye in this location without moving. Intraocular lenses cannot be felt or sensed in any way by the patient.

In most cases, once the lens is centered within the lens capsule, the instruments are removed, and the surgery is therefore complete. Under most normal circumstances stitches (or sutures) are not required to keep the incision sealed.

arrow-circle-right-7-video arrow-circle-right-7-video-light Post Operative Recovery

Recovery from surgery is generally very quick, with most patients achieving noticeably better vision within the first 24 hours of the procedure. Patients are generally asked to use eye medications, administered as drops several times daily for the first few weeks after surgery. Patients should also refrain from eye rubbing during the first few weeks following surgery.

arrow-circle-right-7-video arrow-circle-right-7-video-light Eyeglasses After Surgery

If glasses are required following surgery to achieve the best possible vision either for close up work such as reading or for distance purposes, these will be prescribed three to four weeks after surgery when full recovery is expected. If both eyes are scheduled to have surgery within a few weeks of each other, then glasses, if needed, will be prescribed following the full recovery of the second eye.

Intraocular Lens Options

The intraocular lens comes in a variety of materials and designs. Your surgeon generally chooses a lens made of a material that is best suited to your individual situation. All intraocular lenses used in our practice are coated with UV filters. Some lenses are yellow in color. These lenses are theoretically better at blocking the light rays in the blue spectrum which are thought to be related to the development of macular degeneration in some patients.

Some intraocular lenses are designed to be multifocal in certain lighting circumstances, which may enable patients to see both at distance and near without the aid of spectacles. This effect has not been shown in all patients in whom the lens has been implanted, and it is once again important for patients to realize that while cataract surgery with intraocular lens implantation frequently results in a reduced dependency on eyeglasses it is never guaranteed to eliminate this need totally.

What is the crystalens® accommodative intraocular lens?

The crystals accommodating intraocular lens is an intraocular lens used after cataract surgery or as a lens alternative in presbyopic lens exchange. The concept of the lens was engineered with a hinge design to allow the optic, or part of the lens that you see through, to move back and forth as your focus on an image changes.

AcrySof® IQ PanOptix® IOL is an intraocular lens designed to give clear clear vision at all distances: near, intermediate, and far without needing glasses after cataract surgery. Once the surgery has been completed your eyes can focus on far or near objects in a comfortable way. If you are experiencing presbyopia or cataracts please feel free to consult us about the possibility of utilizing the new PanOptix® intraocular lens.

Restor Lens

FDA Clinical Trials Show 80% of Patients Are Spectacle FREE after surgery.

The AcrySof ReSTOR lens is a foldable IOL that represents breakthrough technology because of its unique, patented optic design, which allows patients to experience the highest level of freedom from glasses ever achieved in IOL clinical trials.

The AcrySof ReSTOR IOL uses a combination of three complementary technologies: apodization, diffraction, and refraction, to allow patients to experience a full range of high-quality vision without the need for reading glasses or bifocals. This range of vision without glasses is achieved through the optical properties of the IOL.

The benefit for patients is a high level of spectacle freedom. Alcon has patented the application of apodization technology to an IOL, making the AcrySof ReSTOR lens the first and only apodized diffractive IOL.

During U.S. clinical trials, the results with ReSTOR were remarkable:

  1. 80% of patients reported that after lens implant surgery with ReSTOR lenses, they no longer needed glasses or contact lenses to see clearly at all distances.
  2. 94% said they could drive and read the paper without contacts or glasses.
  3. Nearly 94% were so satisfied that they would have the procedure again.

What Happens If Cataracts Are Left Untreated?

If you have a cataract and choose to ignore it your quality of life will be affected. Your vision will deteriorate impacting activities like driving, and it will cause legal and even total blindness if ignored in the long run.

If you feel that your vision has deteriorated before your next routine eye exam be sure to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor now!

Discussing cataract surgery with your Sullivan Ostoich eye doctor is the best way to learn about cataracts, discover the best surgeons in your area, and get the most care for your eyes.