Published: Aug. 7, 2009
Updated: Mar. 16, 2012
Cataracts are a clouding of the normally clear crystalline lens as a result of the normal aging process, metabolic changes, or even certain medications.
Cataracts impair vision by preventing light from being accurately focused on the retina.
There are many symptoms of cataracts, including:
1. Clumps of protein reduce the sharpness of the image reaching the retina.
The lens consists mostly of water and protein. When the protein clumps up, it clouds the lens and reduces the light that reaches the retina. The clouding may become severe enough to cause symptoms including blurred vision. Most age-related cataracts develop from altered lens protein.
When a cataract is small, the cloudiness affects only a small part of the lens. You may not notice any changes in your vision. Cataracts tend to “grow” slowly, so vision gets worse gradually. Over time, the cloudy area in the lens may get larger, and the cataract may increase in size. Seeing may become more difficult. Your vision may get duller or blurrier.
2. The clear lens slowly changes to a yellowish/brownish color, adding a brownish tint to vision.
As the clear lens slowly colors with age, your vision gradually may acquire a brownish shade. At first, the amount of tinting may be small and may not cause a vision problem. Over time, increased tinting may make it more difficult to read and perform other routine activities. This gradual change in the amount of tinting does not affect the sharpness of the image transmitted to the retina.
If you have advanced lens discoloration, you may not be able to identify blues and purples. You may be wearing what you believe to be a pair of black socks, only to find out from friends that you are wearing purple socks.
We offer a variety of cataract treatments. Cataract surgery is one of the most successful surgical procedures. Recent advances in surgical and intraocular lens technology have resulted in improved visual outcomes and more rapid recovery for most patients.
Phacoemulsification is the outpatient surgical procedure used for cataract removal today. Following extraction of the cataract, an intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted into the eye. Several hours are required to prepare for the surgery, but you will usually be in the operating room for just minutes. Light sedation is used during the cataract removal so you will need a family member or friend to accompany you.
Following surgery you will use several eye drops to help the eye heal and you will be seen for follow-up visits typically at one day, one week, and one month after cataract removal.
Every patient is unique so recovery times are not uniform, but by one month most eyes have healed completely and can be fitted with new spectacles if they are required.
IOLs have been a standard part of cataract extraction surgery for several decades. Prior to their use, patients were dependent on contact lenses or very thick spectacles following cataract extraction.
Recent advances in IOL technology have provided multiple options for vision correction following cataract surgery. A thorough discussion with your cataract surgeon regarding your individual situation and expectations following surgery will help determine the appropriate IOL for you.
Monofocal IOLs represent the original IOL design. These lenses offer high quality vision and can improve contrast sensitivity, visual aberrations, and even block blue wavelength light that may provide protection from macular degeneration.
However, these IOLs do not allow spectacle independence following surgery. Typically, spectacles will be required for eyes with high levels of astigmatism and reading spectacles will be required for clear vision at computer distance or when reading.
Toric IOLs (one surface of the lens is spherical, the other donut shaped) allow for the precise correction of corneal astigmatism.
If your glasses prescription has significant astigmatism, your surgeon may order a corneal topography test to measure the curvature of your cornea. If the astigmatism originates in your cornea rather than your cataract, a Toric IOL might be appropriate for you.
These IOLs come in several powers and will reduce your dependency on spectacles for distance vision following cataract surgery. Like monofocal IOLs, however, reading spectacles will be required for clear vision at computer distance or when reading.
For patients who desire reduced spectacle dependence, IOLs now can enhance distance, intermediate, and near vision. Multifocal IOLs distribute light over multiple optical zones and allow the eye to focus at multiple distances.
This enhanced range, however, sometimes comes with loss of sharpness when compared to monofocal implants. Some patients require time to grow accustomed to a multifocal IOL and may experience problems with glare and halos particularly at night.
Typically these symptoms improve over time and patients enjoy improved vision and reduced spectacle dependence.
Accommodating IOLs use small hinges that allow the lens position to change when focusing on objects at far, intermediate, and near distances.
Following cataract surgery, you will likely be asked to wear reading glasses for several weeks and the focusing ability of the IOL will not be fully optimized for four to six weeks after the procedure.
This lens allows for increased range of vision without spectacles, but some patients find simple magnifiers helpful for reading very fine print.
Learn more about cornea and external eye diseases:
For more information about cataract treatments, contact the Duke Eye Center to make an appointment near you in Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Winston-Salem, and many areas of North Carolina.