Cataracts are an opacity or clouding of the normally crystalline lens of the eye, caused by the natural aging process, metabolic changes, injury, various forms of radiation, toxic chemicals and certain drugs. The leading cause of vision loss among adults age 60 or older, cataracts impair vision, making everyday activities increasingly difficult.
In simple terms, a cataract is usually part of the normal aging process that changes the natural, clear lens of the eye into a cloudy, opaque structure that inhibits or diminishes the passage of light to the retina. The condition can be compared to a window that is frosted or"fogged" with steam.
There has been a rapid evolution in cataract treatment over the past few years, which translates to added patient benefits, including improved visual outcomes and faster recoveries. Phacoemulsification is a quick outpatient procedure that corrects vision with little discomfort and rapid return to normal activities. It requires a tiny incision and breaks up the cataract with ultrasound waves. Next, a soft, flexible synthetic intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted into the lens capsule of the eye. There is also a multi-focal lens option to provide distant, near and intermediate vision. In most cases, the incision is so small that the eye heals rapidly with little or no discomfort. Drops are used after cataract surgery, and the patient is asked to refrain from swimming or water activity for two weeks.
Cataract surgery is considered one of the most popular and highly successful procedures, with improved vision occurring in over 90 percent of cases. In fact, a study by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery recently reported that more than 98 percent of cataract patients had their vision successfully improved following surgery. Many patients report vision that is even better than before they developed cataracts. Results are permanent; once removed, cataracts will not recur.