Cataracts are a natural consequence of aging. Just like joints, skin, muscle and other body parts, the human lens can deteriorate due to age. Although not the only cause of cataract, age is the leading cause. Other causes can be diabetes, toxic reaction to certain medications and injury.
The lens of the eye is often compared to an M&M Peanut candy. It is made up of three parts, analogous to the peanut, surrounding chocolate and candy coat. The corresponding lens parts are the nucleus, cortex and capsule.
Each of these structures can deteriorate and form a cataract and often they all occur simultaneously.
If light cannot be cleanly focused by the lens due to cataract, light is scattered or absorbed and vision deteriorates. Function can be diminished, therefore, while reading, driving, working or just enjoying the sights!
For many decades it was said that a cataract had to be "ripe" to be removed. However, it is more appropriate now to assess the functional implications of the cataract to determine if removing it will be beneficial. Measuring the function is the job of the ophthalmologist who takes a history, examines the eye and assesses the extent of impairment.
By some estimates, cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the world. In the United States alone, 2.3 million cataract surgeries were performed last year. The baby boomers are accounting for an dramatic increase in these numbers over the last few years.
Quantum leaps in technology have helped to make cataract surgery safer over the years. Small incision, no-stitch cataract surgery using an ultrasound probe to dissolve the cataract and slurp it out of the eye has made cataract surgery safer and outcomes more predictable. We now offer femtosecond laser assisted cataract extraction (affectionately nicknamed LACE), using the AMO Catalys device. This new technology offers added safety and accuracy by automating some of the previously manual steps of the procedure using a computer driven laser. The science of cataract surgery is constantly improving outcomes and safety!! Click here to see how it works. Click here to view animation.
Restoration of vision after removing the human lens has been made very accurate with the advent of new technology intraocular lenses. These small lenses, made of acrylic polymer or silicone, are implanted into the eye at the time of cataract surgery and refocus the light, often more accurately than the human lens ever did! Now, multifocal intraocular lenses are used to not only repair the vision, but also to restore near vision lost to aging of the focusing muscle in the eye!
A cataract operation takes between 8 and 20 minutes, is done under topical or local anesthesia (doctor preference) in an outpatient ambulatory setting (no hospital stay) and recovery is very rapid. Usually, patients can return to normal function the day after the surgery. Sedation is used in most cases (having your eye operated can be stressful) so the day of the surgery is spent letting that wear off!!
It is not only possible to reverse the effects of aging but now we can "turn the clock back" if you will, and restore the reading vision lost to "peeper" glasses after age 40!
We have much experience with multi-focal and Toric Intraocular lens implants for our cataract surgery patients. These newer type lenses correct optical error surgically to allow greater freedom from spectacle and contact lens correction.Be sure to see the web page entitled "ReSTOR and Tecnis Multifocal IOLs" for more information.