Cataracts are a normal part of aging. They form when the clear lens inside the eye hardens and becomes cloudy.
Most people with cataracts experience very gradual symptoms or changes in vision over several years. Other types of cataracts—although less common—may develop if you’ve had an eye injury or eye surgery, take certain medications, have diabetes or spend a lot of time in the sun.
In rare cases, children can be born with cataracts. This primarily occurs because of genetic factors or because the mother had a disease during pregnancy
- Family history of cataracts
- Overexposure to UV radiation from sunlight or tanning beds
- High blood pressure
- Taking steroid medications
- Previous eye injury, eye surgery, or radiation treatment on your upper body
- Blurry, cloudy, or dimmed vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Colors don't look as bright as they used to
- Frequent changes in eyeglass prescription
- Double vision
Your doctor will review your medical history and perform an eye exam, which may include several different tests.
- Visual acuity test: During this test, you'll read an eye chart to measure the sharpness and clarity of your vision. Each eye is tested individually.
- Slit-lamp exam: Using a microscope, your doctor will view the front part of your eye, including the cornea, iris, and lens.
- Dilated eye exam: Special drops will be used to dilate your eyes. Then your doctor will use an ophthalmoscope to look at the back part of your eye, including the retina and optic nerve.
It is not necessary to treat cataracts until they interfere with your daily life. You and your ophthalmologist will decide together whether and when surgery is necessary.
Cataract surgery is typically a brief and relatively simple procedure. It usually takes less than an hour to complete, and patients return home the same day. During surgery, most patients receive an artificial lens to replace the natural lens.
Some patients have complex eye problems that make cataract surgery more complicated. It is important that your eye surgeon perform a thorough and complete exam of your eye to examine for these conditions and plan accordingly.
Mass. Eye and Ear offers laser-assisted cataract surgery with the femtosecond LensSx® Laser. This can offer additional precision in certain steps of the surgical procedure. The laser allows your surgeon to plan and perform a procedure that's completely customized for each of your eyes.
Common Types of Replacement Lenses
This is the most common type of lens used with cataract surgery. It provides clear vision at one distance. It can be set to help you see up close, medium range, or at a distance. Most people have monofocal lenses for distance vision in both eyes.
Some people have one eye fitted with a lens that provides close up vision and the other with a lens that provides distance vision. This is known as monovision.