Understanding Cataracts

What is a cataract? And why would I need surgery?

A cataract is a clouding and yellowing of the normally clear lens of the eye. It can be compared to looking through yellowed wax paper in extreme cases. When a cataract occurs, it can be removed and vision restored through surgery.

Cataract Symptom

There are many misconceptions about cataracts. A cataract is:

  • Not a film over the eye
  • Not caused by overusing the eyes
  • Not a cancer
  • Not spread from one eye to the other
  • Not a cause of irreversible blindness

Common symptoms of cataract include:

  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Poor night vision
  • A painless blurring of vision
  • Glare, or light sensitivity
  • Frequent eyeglass prescription changes
  • Double vision in one eye
  • Needing brighter light to read

The most common cause of cataracts is simple: aging. Heredity or diseases may also contribute to cataracts forming. The amount and pattern of cloudiness within the lens can vary. If the cloudiness is not near the center of the lens, you may not be aware that a cataract is present. There are no medications, dietary supplements, exercises or optical devices that have been shown to prevent or cure cataracts. Protection from excessive sunlight may help prevent or slow the progression of cataracts. Sunglasses that screen out ultraviolet (UV) light rays or regular eyeglasses with a clear, anti-UV coating offer this protection.

Cataract surgery restores vision

Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. In fact, it is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States, with more than 3 million Americans undergoing the procedure each year. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision. During surgery, your Magruder Eye Institute surgeon will replace the clouded natural lens in your eye with a new clear artificial one, called an intraocular lens (IOL). The IOL restores your vision, and premium IOLs may allow you to have better vision than you had before the cataract. Recent advancements in laser technology have also enhanced cataract surgery. Lasers can make removal of the old lens easier, and make incisions to put the replacement lens in place more precisely. And once the new IOL has been put into place, laser technology may be used to help enhance its performance, such as making arcuate incisions in the cornea to treat astigmatism.