What is a Cataract?
A cataract refers to the clouding of the clear natural lens in the eye. In a normal eye, light passes from outside of the eye, through the eye’s transparent lens to the retina, in the back of the eye. The retina is the part of the eye that transforms this light into nerve signals, which are sent to the brain to give us our vision. This is how we see. When cataracts develop in the lens, the image the retina sends to the brain becomes cloudy, thus impairing one’s vision. Cataracts typically develop slowly and don’t show strong symptoms in their early stages. However, as clouding progresses, the cataract eventually interferes with vision and everyday life. Once cataracts begin to affect a person’s daily life, they should be referred to an eye doctor, ophthalmologist, to find proper treatment.
When Do Cataracts Occur?
Cataracts most often appear as a normal part of the aging process. Most people begin to develop cataracts in their 40’s and 50’s, but they are typically small and do not affect vision greatly. Though once people reach their 60’s, cataracts have a much higher chance to affect vision.
Cataracts are an incredibly common condition globally. Cataracts are so prevalent that more people suffer from them than glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined.
Although cataracts are most commonly associated with age, there are also some other conditions that can cause cataracts to occur. Cataracts have also been linked to smoking and alcohol use, environmental exposure such as pollution and sunlight, and as a side effect of diseases such as diabetes. Regardless of your age, it is best to make an appointment to see an eye doctor at Dr. Manus Kraff’s Chicago office using the form below.
What Causes Cataracts?
The natural lens in the eye works very similarly to a camera lens, focusing light that goes through it onto the retina, the camera film of the eye, to give us clear sight. It consists mostly of water and protein. As the body ages, some of the protein in the lens may start to get stuck together and develop a brownish tint that clouds a small area of the lens. In initial cataract stages, one may only notice small changes in their vision, such as color recognition problems. Unfortunately, over time, the opaque protein will usually grow larger and make it more difficult to see.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
We have found that most cataract sufferers will exhibit some or all of these symptoms:
- Cloudy and/or blurry vision
- Trouble seeing at nighttime
- Halos around lights, headlights when driving, or lamps
- Strong glares from sunlight and bright environments
- Experiencing double vision in one eye
- Frequently needing to change the prescription of eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Colors all seem yellowish or faded
- Needing a brighter reading light in dark environments
There could be other signs of cataracts as well, but these are the most common symptoms. If you are experiencing trouble with your vision, call (773) 777-4444 or fill out the form to schedule a consultation with our Chicago eye doctors.
What are the treatment options for dealing with cataracts?
Early symptoms of cataracts can sometimes be treated with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. Usually when patients become older and their symptoms affect their daily lives, cataract surgery is the only effective option to improve a patient’s vision.
Cataract surgery is actually the most frequently performed eye surgery in America, and has a very high success rate. Ophthalmologists perform over 3.7 million cataract surgeries every year in America.
There are two main types of cataract surgery that we perform at Dr. Manus Kraff’s office:
Refractive lens exchange:
Also called lens replacement surgery, is a procedure where the natural lens of the eye is removed. The old proteins in the eye that are causing the discoloration are removed with the lens, and replaced with an intraocular, IOL, artificial lens.
This type of cataract surgery consists of the eye doctor creating a small incision in the side of the eye, then breaking up and removing the clouded natural lens via ultrasound and suction. After the cataracts and natural lens are removed, the eye doctor replaces it with a new artificial lens (IOL).
IOL implants are widely used by ophthalmologists and also serve to correct other conditions, such as macular degeneration, presbyopia, and hyperopia (farsightedness). There are different types of lenses to treat different eye conditions. IOLs can help to correct astigmatism, farsightedness, and nearsightedness. Monovision is a technique that enables a person to read with one after cataract surgery.
These different lenses serve different purposes, and our eye doctors will recommend the best options for your long-term eye health once we have properly assessed your personal eye condition.
Laser Cataract Surgery
Recently the FDA has approved the use of lasers, similar to those that are used in Lasik surgery, for use in cataract surgery correction as well. Ophthalmologists use lasers during cataract surgery to create an incision in the eye and break up the natural lens and cataract particles. It has been found that using this laser system is more accurate than traditional methods, and thus increases the safety of cataract surgery even more.
Dr. Manus Kraff was the first ophthalmologist to perform laser cataract surgery in Chicago starting in August 2011.