Cataracts are a condition in which the lenses of the eye become cloudy, affecting vision and often requiring surgery to correct. Cataract surgery is a common and safe procedure. Dr. Patel at Wichita Vision Institute in Wichita, KS, is an experienced ophthalmologist committed to providing the best treatments for her patients.
Cataracts: What You Need to Know
Understanding cataracts begins with understanding the structure and function of the eye. The eye is a complex organ that requires several interconnected pieces to work seamlessly together. Otherwise, vision becomes impaired.
When light first enters the eye, it reflects off an image we are looking at and falls upon the cornea. After it passes through the cornea, it moves through an area of the eye called the aqueous humor, then reaches the pupil. At this point, the light meets the lens of the eye. The lens is where cataracts form. A cataract impairs vision when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy.
Form and Function of the Lens
The lens is responsible for focusing light as it enters the eye, changing the focal distance as it falls upon the retina. Its flexible tissue can change shape to focus on objects both near and in the distance. This is what creates clear images and helps us to judge accurate depth perception.
When cataracts form, the lens becomes compromised and dims or blurs images. Over time, this clouding can have significant effects on eyesight. If left untreated, cataracts can eventually lead to loss of night vision and even blindness.
Why Cataracts Occur
The first and primary risk factor for developing cataracts is merely aging. Cataract changes can start to begin in a person’s forties. In fact, studies have shown that over half of all Americans will have cataracts or will have had cataract surgery by the age of 80.
Other risk factors can determine a person’s susceptibility to cataracts, including smoking, injuries, UV radiation exposure, diabetes, and certain medications, such as steroids. Genetics can also make a person predisposed to developing cataracts.
Symptoms of cataracts include increasing difficulties with depth perception and night vision, seeing halos or glare around lights, needing more light to read, and having double vision. Colors can also appear dull or washed out. You may also find that you may have trouble driving and need frequent changes in your glasses or contact lens prescriptions.
Is Surgery Necessary?
While some people can manage cataracts for a length of time by using brighter lighting or wearing glasses, cataract symptoms will worsen over time if left untreated. Activities such as being outdoors or playing sports can become challenging, since you may be sensitive to the sun’s glare. The joy that you get from many activities could become compromised.
When vision becomes impaired to this degree, surgery to remove the lens is necessary. The old lens is replaced with an artificial lens that will restore clear vision. Dr. Patel can help you determine when surgery is the best option for you.
What Is Involved in Cataract Surgery?
A Common, Safe Procedure
Dr. Patel is a seasoned ophthalmologist who is an expert at performing cataract surgery. The procedure is an outpatient surgery and only takes approximately 20 minutes. You will be able to go home the same day, but please make arrangements to have a friend drive you to and from the surgery.
During the surgery, Dr. Patel will remove the lens from the eye and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens. This is a small, foldable plastic lens that is inserted into the eye to replace the lens with the cataract.
What Are Intraocular Lenses?
Before the technological advancement of intraocular lenses, people often had to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses to see well even after cataract surgery. Now there are three types of intraocular lenses that can be placed into the eye during surgery to help correct both the cataract and your vision. Dr. Patel offers mono-focal lenses, toric lenses, and multifocal lenses.
These lenses correct vision at one distance, meaning they can improve eyesight at one of the following ranges: near, intermediate, or far. For example, you may be near-sighted and have no trouble reading. However, you may have impaired long-distance vision while driving. A mono-focal lens could be useful in this scenario since you would only need to correct long-distance vision troubles.
Toric intraocular lenses are designed specifically for patients who suffer from astigmatism, which is an irregular curvature of the cornea or lens. This can create image distortion and blurred vision. These lenses also help patients gain independence from glasses for distance vision.
These lenses are unique in that they offer improved vision at all three distances (near, intermediate, or far). Many patients who have had multifocal lenses implanted during surgery report sharper vision in low-light scenarios and less glare while driving at night. Most report less reliance on glasses as well.
Before the Surgery
Cataract surgery is a routine surgery for Dr. Patel. She performs her operations at Ridgewood Surgery and Endoscopy Center. Dr. Patel may ask you not to eat or drink anything for up to 12 hours before surgery.
In pre-operative care, Dr. Patel will numb the surface of the eye with anesthetic drops and administer a mild sedative through IV to promote relaxation (some patients sleep through the whole procedure). A numbing solution is also placed into the eye to further minimize any discomfort.
What Happens During Surgery?
The surgery begins with several small incisions into the cornea of the eye. Dr. Patel will then make an opening in the area where the cataract is located. She will first use an ultrasound technology that transmits high-frequency energy at the clouded lens. The lens will then break up into smaller pieces that Dr. Patel can then remove from the eye using gentle suction.
Once this occurs, Dr. Patel will insert the folded-up intraocular lens through the same incision and position it correctly over the eye. She will then close up the incision and place a protective barrier over the eye.
After the procedure, you will be moved to a soothing recovery suite for a short time. You will need to have a friend drive you to Dr. Patel’s office, where you will then receive post-operative instructions. You may also want to see if a friend can help you out at home for the first week or two after surgery, as some activities may be limited for a short time. Most patients are able to resume their normal activities after the first week or so after surgery.
Recovery is usually uncomplicated and consists of careful attention to the instructions provided to you. For the first week, you should avoid strenuous activity and anything that could introduce dirt, water, or dust into the eye (such as wearing eye makeup). You will also be asked to wear sunglasses outside and an eye shield while you are sleeping.
In addition, you will receive eye drops to be used for the month following surgery. These help to promote healing and restore health to the eye. You may find that the eye itches as it heals, but it is imperative that you do your best to avoid rubbing or wiping at the eye during this time.
Dr. Patel will schedule several appointments with you during your healing process. Remember that it is normal for your vision to be blurry for the first few days or even weeks after surgery. However, if you find yourself experiencing any pain, redness with swelling or inflammation, or loss of vision, please call Dr. Patel’s office for a visit as soon as possible.
Benefits of Cataract Surgery
Increased Color Perception
Since you will be viewing the world quite literally through a new lens, you may find that colors appear brighter. Your clouded lens mutes colors that are viewed through a dingy yellow or brown tint. In addition, most patients find that they don’t just see better, but they feel better in general when their vision is no longer impaired.
Decreased Risk of Falling
Having cataract surgery also decreases your risk of falls and broken bones as your depth perception improves and you see images more clearly. As we age, falls become more and more of a risk to our health and well-being. Making sure your vision is the best it can be will minimize this risk.
Increased Length and Quality of Life
An Australian study compared people over the age of 49 who had cataracts. Those who had cataract surgery had a 40% lower long-term mortality risk than those who did not. In addition, being able to do things without difficulties, such as reading and driving, will increase the quality of your life.
Rediscover What Makes You Happy
Most patients find that surgery not only restores their vision, but it also restores their independence. Things they enjoy can be done without the frustration of distorted or blurred vision and impaired depth perception. It can literally change the way people view the world, both literally and figuratively.
Everyday tasks become easier, decreasing the amount of time it takes to complete the mundane aspects of day-to-day living. This increases the time you have to rediscover hobbies you enjoy and explore new ones you’ve been putting off.
Taking Eye Health Into Your Own Hands
Eating the right kinds of nutrients can improve your health overall, but it can have particular benefits for eye health. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and walnuts, can protect the retina and improve visual development over time. In addition, Vitamin A and beta carotene have long been known to help protect and enhance eye health.
Habits such as smoking and spending long periods of time in front of computer screens can be hard on the eyes. Smoking increases your chances of developing cataracts and makes your eyes more susceptible to other conditions such as macular degeneration. In addition, eye strain from computer use can cause headaches, blurry vision, and trouble focusing at a distance.
Too much exposure to UV light can lead to an increased risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Make sure you are wearing sunglasses and limiting exposure when outdoors. Look for sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays, and be sure to use a UV-protecting eye cream or eye-friendly sunscreen on the delicate skin just above and below the eyes.
Imagine the Possibilities
There is glare-free light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Dr. Patel takes great pride in being an expert in cataracts and in helping patients through their cataract surgery and post-operative treatment. Please call Wichita Vision Institute in Wichita, KS today for a consultation.