WHAT IS A CATARACT?
Cataract Surgery is one of the most frequently performed and successful medical procedures today.
If you are having trouble with night driving, glare from headlights, golf, reading, watching TV or any of the things you like to do, you may be developing cataracts. So, what exactly are they?
Just like a camera, our eyes use a lens to focus. This natural lens is clear and flexible in our youth, allowing crisp vision with a full range of focus. As we age, usually in our mid-forties, it becomes rigid, causing blurry near vision and we become dependent on reading glasses to refocus from far to near. Eventually, the same lens becomes cloudy as it matures into a cataract.
Cataracts are a normal, unavoidable part of the aging process and can begin to affect the clarity of vision as early as age 50. In fact, it is said that most people will develop cataracts if they live long enough. They usually develop slowly but will eventually result in blurry vision, difficulty reading and driving at night due to light sensitivity and glare. Early symptoms may be improved with a new glasses prescription or brighter lighting. But, when your vision starts to interfere with your lifestyle, it’s time to think about cataract surgery. Your family eye doctor will help guide you through this process and refer you to Dr. Boyd when it’s time for surgery.
SYMPTOMS OF CATARACTS
Cataracts are often difficult to detect at first, because they develop slowly and without pain. However, these are some symptoms to watch for:
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Difficulty driving at night
- Halos around lights
- Trouble reading TV guide screen
- Colors seem less bright
- Difficulty reading small print
- Increased sensitivity to light and glare
- Ghost images
- Double vision in one eye
Be sure to inform your family eye doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your vision becomes impaired to the point where it is dangerous to drive, or your quality of life is compromised. As the cataract matures, life can become difficult and you will know when the time has come to remove them.
ANATOMY & TERMINOLOGY
Astigmatism is a refractive error that often occurs simultaneously with nearsightedness and farsightedness, and is correctable with glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. It is typically caused by the cornea (clear window of the eye) being shaped more like a football than a basketball. This causes images to focus at different points on the retina, resulting in blurry or double vision. Astigmatism can also be caused by similar irregularities in the shape of the natural lens inside the eye.
For patients with pre-existing astigmatism, there are now ways to treat it at the time of cataract surgery to reduce their need for glasses postoperatively. We can treat small amounts of astigmatism with our femtosecond laser. And, for patients with more significant amounts, we offer advanced technology intraocular lens implants (IOLs) that have built-in astigmatism correction. Dr. Boyd will discuss the best method for correcting your astigmatism during your evaluation.
As you age, so do your eyes. The natural lens inside the eye become more rigid with age, usually sometime around age 40. The rigid lens is no longer able to adjust from distance to near. Presbyopia is the resulting condition causing difficulty seeing up close without the aid of bifocals or reading glasses. Most people realize they have developed presbyopia when they find themselves needing to hold reading materials farther and farther away to focus. There are now advanced technology IOLs that can correct presbyopia too.
Intraocular Lenses (IOLs)
An intraocular lens (IOL) is an artificial lens which is implanted during cataract surgery to replace the cloudy, natural lens. Advancements in optics have provided a wide variety of IOLs and patients can now choose which IOL type best suits their needs. Advanced technology IOLs that can reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses after cataract surgery are now available. The most effective lens to use depends on the patient’s preferences and vision goals, which can differ according to individual occupations and lifestyles.
Mono-focal, or single focus lenses have been used for many years. They have a fixed focal point that is generally set for distance vision, so glasses will still be necessary for reading and near activities. Patients with pre-existing astigmatism will still require glasses for distance.
Another way mono-focal lenses are used is by setting one eye for distance vision and one for near vision, thereby reducing the need for reading glasses. This is called “mono-vision.” We recommend that patients considering this option talk to their family eye doctor and try it out with contact lenses first to make sure they can adapt to mono-vision.
The Toric lens is a single focus lens that is designed to correct astigmatism. As with other mono-focal lenses, patients with the Toric IOL will still need reading glasses to see up close, but can expect to see clearly in the distance due to the astigmatism correction.
Expanded Range IOLs
These lenses offer patients the best possible opportunity for independence from glasses. They provide continuous vision, enabling patients to see better at more distances than with a mono-focal IOL – minimizing and sometimes eliminating the need for glasses. These IOLs are also available in a TORIC version which provides the same continuous vision and also corrects astigmatism.