June is Cataract Awareness Month, an ideal time to share information about one of the most common vision problems people experience as they age: the formation of cataracts.
A cataract is a clouding or yellowing of the eye’s natural lens, which typically occurs in people over age 40, with those over age 60 having the majority of operable cataracts. Around half of all Americans will develop at least one cataract by age 75. In addition, cataracts can form in newborns due to complications in pregnant moms, such as diseases like chickenpox and measles.
If you or someone you love suffers from cataracts, don’t despair. While their vision with cataracts will be greatly reduced, the condition is treatable with a common eye procedure that boasts a high 95– 98% success rate. Cataracts, which are a cause of blindness when uncorrected, are one of the most easily treatable vision-impacting eye conditions.
Here are 8 facts about cataracts and cataract correction:
- It’s an increasingly common procedure. An estimated 3 to 4 million cataract correction procedures are performed each year in the U.S., with up to 28 million performed annually worldwide. Since 1995, 500 million cataract surgeries have been performed globally. With the aging of our population and longer lifespans, within the next 24 years, that number should double to 8 million cataract procedures in the U.S. per year.
- An artificial lens replaces the eye’s clouded natural lens. Because the eye’s natural lens grows thick, cloudy and yellow with time, cataracts can’t be separated from the eye’s lens. The best way to correct the problem is by replacing the entire lens. The cataract procedure involves removal of the eye’s clouded lens and the positioning of an implant called an intraocular lens (IOL). The IOL performs the role of your eye’s natural lens with excellent functionality, essentially becoming a part of your eye.
- Vision improves significantly after cataract correction. Because the eye’s clouded lens—the reason your vision appears cloudy, blurry or yellow—is removed during the cataract procedure, you will see more clearly after healing from the procedure. Many patients share that driving at night was difficult before cataract correction, but they are able to resume night driving after healing.
- Cataract correction is an outpatient procedure. Most cataract procedures are performed in an outpatient surgical center or hospital. The patient is able to go home (with someone driving them) the same day. The procedure itself is surprisingly short, taking less than 10 minutes per eye, though the pre-surgical process means you will likely be in the surgical center for several hours.
- Cataract correction is performed one eye at a time. Most cataract surgeons opt to perform the procedure on one eye at a time, with at least a week between procedures. Typically, cataract correction starts on the eye with the most mature cataract and in the following weeks your surgeon will correct the other eye.
- Cataract correction involves a small incision in your conjunctiva. Patients are comfortably sedated and won’t feel anything during the procedure. The surgeon makes a small incision to first remove the clouded, natural lens and then insert a folded IOL lens into the lens’ space to unfurl and take its place. The IOL implant will provide you with clear vision once again.
- Your optometrist will help determine when you need cataract correction and recommend a qualified surgeon in your area. If you’re over age 50, there’s a chance that your optometrist has already identified the beginnings of a cataract forming in at least one of your eyes. Your optometrist will monitor the cataract and keep you informed about its growth. Depending on the position of the cataract, its rate of growth, and the resulting impact it has on your lifestyle, you and your optometrist will discuss the ideal timeframe to have cataract correction. Your optometrist can also provide your post-procedure exam to ensure the healing process is well underway and can answer any questions you may have about the healing timeline.
- Recovery times vary by individual. While some patients report clearer vision in just a day or two after cataract correction, others take a week or more to enjoy the benefits of this life-changing procedure. In general, you can resume most household activities within a day or so but you shouldn’t exercise vigorously for a week or two. Your surgeon and your optometrist will answer specific questions you may have about resuming your lifestyle activities. While most healing occurs in the first two weeks, the cataract procedure takes about 10 weeks to heal fully.
If you’ve noticed that your vision is clouded or blurry, if you see halos around lights, or if you have difficulty with night vision, contrast vision, or color vision, you may be experiencing the symptoms of cataracts. These symptoms can be eliminated with a cataract correction procedure.
Call us today to make an appointment so you can discuss with your optometrist the options for a life-changing cataract correction procedure to regain your ability to see clearly.