Don't Be Left In The Dark When It Comes to CataractsDr Sheldon Herzig Saturday, October 15, 2011
Its a simple fact that if you live long enough, you’ll probably get cataracts. By age 60, many people have some degree of lens clouding, and by age 80, more than half of all North Americans will have had a cataract. But that doesn’t mean patients have to be left in the dark. Removing a cataract is safe and painless, and with today’s technological advances, patients often have better vision after surgery than they had before the cataract developed.
A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris, focusing light rays coming through the pupil. The lens itself is made mostly of water and protein and works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina at the back of the eye. But as people age, the clarity of the lens decreases to the point where it actually gets cloudy and affects vision.
Early symptoms can include mildly blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night, frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions, or seeing halos around lights. Early-stage cataracts can sometimes be treated with new glasses, but as a cataract gets denser, it blocks the light to the retina, impeding vision. When vision is reduced enough that it interferes with daily activities (such as reading or driving), surgery is required to correct the problem.
A cataract is removed using ultrasonic energy in a procedure called phacoemulsification. The surgery is done through a microscopic, self-sealing wound at the edge of the cornea. After the cloudy lens is removed, a new soft plastic or silicone intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted into the eye to replace it. The operation takes 10 to 15 minutes and is painless. The most common form of IOL is monofocal, which corrects vision in the distance with some designed specifically to correct astigmatism. But for patients interested in more than distance vision, there are two types of advanced IOLs that allow for better vision both near and far: the multifocal IOL and the accommodative IOL.
The multifocal IOL divides the light rays that enter the eye so that some of the rays focus in the distance and some focus up close for reading. Accommodative IOLs are designed to simulate the function of the youthful human lens and automatically adjust when a person changes from focusing in the distance to focusing up close and vice versa.
Accommodative IOLs have had variable success in providing consistent reading vision and are still in the process of being improved. As everyone’s eyes are different, the surgeon has to carefully decide which IOL is most appropriate for each patient. When these IOLs are used judiciously, 85 to 90 per cent of patients are completely free of glasses.
Recovery from cataract surgery is quick. Everyday activities and moderate exercise can be resumed within a few days. Vision can be blurry the first day but improves rapidly each day. Most people have legal driving vision in the first postoperative week and achieve complete clarity in two to three weeks.
So rest easy. The safety of modern cataract surgery and its quick recovery time, not to mention the potential for improved vision, mean that you don’t need to fear cataracts.
Dr. Sheldon Herzig, MD, FRCSC Co-Founder, Medical Director, Herzig Eye Institute: Dr. Sheldon Herzig is one of the world’s most respected and experienced laser eye surgeons, having pioneered the development and application of leading-edge technologies in advanced cataract and refractive surgery. The medical director and co-founder of the Herzig Eye Institute, Dr. Herzig uses the most advanced state-of-the-art technology to provide each patient with a High Definition Vision® solution to meet his or her unique needs.