Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Although we typically associate cataracts with a cloudy or white pupil, cataracts are often not visible to the naked eye. Moreover can affect anyone at almost any age level.
A cataract is actually a thickening of the lens of the eye. In a healthy eye, light can pass through the lens much like a camera. A cataract prevents light from entering the eye properly and projecting a clear image on the retina.
There are many signs and symptoms of cataracts, although many Americans have cataracts and do not know it. One in every 6 adults over the age of 40 has a cataract, but it may take years for the cataract to noticeably affect vision. Some of the most common symptoms of cataracts are:
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Difficulty driving at night
- Seeing halos around objects
- Having trouble reading or watching television
You will probably find out from your ophthalmologist that you are developing a cataract before you even sense a change in your vision. After several years, when your cataract symptoms begin affecting your daily activities, it is time to consider treatment options.
The most common treatment for cataracts is cataract surgery. Although cataract surgery is a complex procedure, it is extremely common and safe outpatient surgery. In fact, the average surgery takes only about 15 minutes, and only about 1 in 1000 procedures result in a visually significant complication.
Your ophthalmologist will help you choose the type of cataract surgery that is best for you. Traditional cataract surgery uses a diamond or metal blade to make a small incision in the cornea to remove the cataract. Laser-assisted cataract surgery uses a femtosecond laser to create an architecturally precise incision using a 3-D map of the eye called optical coherence tomography (OCT). After creating the incision, the cataract is removed and then your surgeon will insert an intraocular lens (IOL) that is chosen specifically for your eye.
Cataracts are one of the most common eye diseases, but they are also one of the most treatable conditions. Talk to your ophthalmologist about whether cataract surgery can help restore your vision. If you need assistance finding an eye care professional in your area, please use our physician locator tool.