Cataracts are a common vision problem. In adults aged 50 and older, it is the leading cause of blindness around the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, cataracts are also one of the leading causes of blindness, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The good news is vision loss from cataracts can be avoided. At Focus Eye Care & Surgery, you can regain sharper vision that keeps up with your lifestyle. Our board-certified New York cataract specialist, Dr. Neelofar Ghaznawi, uses cutting-edge technology and surgical techniques to tailor treatment according to your needs. She is a member of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons and performs a range of cataract surgeries.
FAQs about cataracts
Located behind the iris or the colored part of the eye, the natural crystalline lens is made up of about 60% proteins and water. As people get older, these proteins break down and clump together, clouding the lens. The resulting foggy lens is a cataract.
Because the natural lens focuses light rays to a sharp point onto the retina, cataracts scatter these light rays, resulting in blurry vision.
It’s possible to have cataracts in both eyes with varying levels of visual impairment.
In the majority of cases, cataracts are caused by natural aging. Proteins and lens fibers start to break down by age 40. According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of Americans over the age of 80 either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery.
In some cases, cataracts may be caused by trauma. Severe injury to the eyes damages the lens such that cataracts form either a short period after or years later.
There is also cataract caused by exposure to high levels of radiation or ultraviolet rays. People who undergo radiation treatment are at higher risk of developing cataracts, as are those who do not wear protective sunglasses when outdoors.
Cataracts may also be present at birth or develop shortly thereafter. Although rare, surgery to treat other eye problems may also contribute to cataract formation.
– colors appear muted or faded
– seeing halos around lights, making it difficult to drive at night
– lights that were usually tolerable now appear too bright
– double vision
– frequent change of prescription eyeglasses
In its early stages, a cataract may not be easily detectable. This is why it’s important to have your eyes checked regularly. Over time, however, a person’s vision becomes blurry until details and colors are no longer clear and vivid. Left untreated, cataracts may lead to (preventable) blindness.
As these symptoms may point to other vision problems, it is vital to have a thorough eye exam regularly. Our New York eye specialist performs a comprehensive eye exam and creates a treatment plan with you to restore your vision.
The only way to remove a cataract that impairs daily activities and normal functioning is through surgery.
This cataract surgery entails making a small cut in the side of the cornea (the clear outer layer of the eyes) to prepare the insertion of a tiny probe. This probe emits ultrasonic waves to soften the cataract so it is easily broken down into smaller pieces. The fragments are then suctioned out by the same probe.
Laser Cataract Surgery
Our New York cataract surgeon uses pulses of light to break apart the cataract. Laser emits gentler but more efficient energy than ultrasonic energy. This blade-less method reduces potential injury to the surrounding cells and consequently shortens the healing period. The tiny cataract fragments are then suctioned out with a similar probe used in conventional cataract surgery.
Both types of cataract surgery entail implanting an intraocular lens (IOL) in place of the opaque natural lens. With this long-term lens, the eyes can now focus light more sharply. You regain clearer vision and a more active and involved lifestyle.
These cataract surgeries are done in an office-based setting. You are able to go home on the same day.
Cataract surgery is one of the safest eye surgeries performed in the United States. Nine out of ten patients achieve better vision after cataract surgery, according to the American Optometric Association.
Age is the single most important risk factor for the development of cataracts. Other risk factors that can further increase your likelihood of developing cataracts are diabetes, smoking, drinking alcohol, sunlight exposure, high blood pressure, obesity, history of eye injury, previous eye diseases, and previous eye surgeries.
Untreated cataracts can lead to total blindness. Cataracts typically progress through various stages known as incipient, immature, mature, and hypermature. If treatment is not done early on when symptoms of a cataract first begin to affect vision, then the cataract will eventually progress to the hypermature stage. While hypermature cataracts can also be treated, the likelihood of complications is much higher and the success rate is also much lower.
The probability of developing cataracts may be prevented by avoiding the major risk factors associated with it such as smoking, drinking alcohol, being obese, uncontrolled blood pressure, uncontrolled blood sugar, and sunlight exposure. Some studies have found that food rich in antioxidants may also be beneficial to prevent cataracts. However, as age is the single most important risk factor strongly associated with cataracts, preventing it is not always possible.
Yes, if cataracts are left untreated, it will lead to total blindness. In the majority of cases, even total blindness can be treated successfully with cataract surgery. But, the longer you wait, the lower the success rate for cataract surgery.
Cataracts do not affect vision significantly in their early stages. Patients can have their cataracts removed when the vision impairment starts to impede their daily activities. It is not necessary to wait for the vision to worsen to treat cataracts, but most patients opt for treatment when they first notice changes in vision. In fact, cataracts can be treated at any stage, but it is best to treat them early on.
Yes, cataract surgery results are permanent. In some rare cases, intraocular lens replacement may be needed if the patient develops complications.
No, general anesthesia is not used in cataract surgery. In fact, cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, and patients are awake during the whole procedure. Topical or local anesthesia is used in most cataract surgeries to avoid any pain or discomfort for patients.
No, you cannot drive yourself home after cataract surgery. Although you will notice an immediate improvement in vision, it will take some time for your eyes to adjust after the surgery. A family member or friend must help you drive home after the surgery.