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What is a Cataract? Cataracts are the most common treatable cause of poor vision. Your eye has a natural lens that works to focus light on the retina, giving us a clear, sharp image of the world around us. As we age this lens can harden and become cloudy. This clouding of the lens is called a cataract.

Most often cataracts are simply the result of the aging process, but they can also be caused by injuries to the eye, use of certain medications, some diseases, and genetic inheritance. Cataracts are found to some degree in up to 65% of people over the age of sixty, and in over 80% of people over seventy. Because of cataracts, it is estimated that 5 to 10 million people become visually disabled each year throughout the world. Approximately one million cataract surgeries are performed each year in the U.S. alone. Cataracts may be present in only one or both eyes, and if they are present in both, can worsen at different rates. While some cataracts progress slowly and take years to cause significant problems, others advance rapidly and impair vision in just months.

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Cataract Surgery Many patients are reluctant to undergo cataract surgery because they may remember a parent or grandparent having the operation. In the past, cataract patients had long hospital stays, experienced a lot of pain and discomfort, and had to remain inactive for many months. In addition, patients had to wear thick, heavy cataract glasses after their surgery. Today, with the use of modern techniques and advanced technology, cataract surgery is practically painless, has a much shorter recovery time, and can achieve much better results. It can be performed as an outpatient procedure and the patient can usually return to normal activities in a day or two. No needles. No stitches.

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IOLs and Lens Substitutes In order to see well after cataract surgery, you will need a substitute for the natural lens of the eye that is removed during the surgery. There are four types of substitutes available; cataract glasses, contact lenses, traditional intraocular lenses, and multi-focal intraocular lenses. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. Your doctor can help you decide which one is best for you.

Contact Lenses
Contact lenses are thin lenses that are placed on the surface of the eye and ride on a layer of tears. Hard, soft, and extended-wear soft contact lenses are now available. Unfortunately, many patients are unable to wear contact lenses because they experience discomfort and irritation, as well as having difficulty with insertion and removal.

Intraocular Lens (IOL)
Made from plastic, silicone, or acrylic, an intraocular lens is a tiny, synthetic lens that is permanently inserted into the eye. This lens will last indefinitely. Since it is placed in the eye, near where the natural lens was removed, it provides a more natural restored vision, eliminating the changes in image size or distortion of peripheral vision associated with the use of cataract glasses. IOLs do not cause discomfort since there is no foreign body to irritate the surface of the eye. IOLs are currently the most commonly used option for correcting vision in cataract patients.

Multifocal and Accommodative Lenses
Multifocal IOLs, designed to provide for both near and distance vision, are a revolutionary new option for cataract patients. Several types of these lenses, including ReSTOR®, CrystalensHD®, and ReZoom™, are available. With these lenses many patients do not require any corrective eyewear for reading or distance vision after their procedure. While the surgical process is quite similar to that used with traditional IOLs, these lenses do cost more. Most patients feel that it is well worth the price given the results.

ReSTOR® IOLs
During FDA trials of the ReSTOR® intraocular lenses it was found that 80% of patients no longer required any glasses or spectacles after surgery, and impressively, 94% of patients could read the newspaper without the help of corrective lenses. ReSTOR® intraocular lenses have a surface that rises in concentric rings, allowing for an even gathering and distribution of light. This design, called diffractive apodization, provides better vision at both near and far distances. To find out more information about their lens Click Here or surgery with their lens Click Here .

How do you evaluate vision loss from cataracts?
It is necessary to have a medical eye exam, which will include checking your eyeglass prescription. During this exam, your doctor can determine if vision loss is due to cataracts or if there is another cause. Tests that measure glare, night vision, sensitivity, color vision, and central and peripheral vision may be performed. If you are in the early stages of cataract development, you may be able to improve your vision by just changing your glasses.

What are the criteria for cataract removal?
If you are experiencing vision loss that is interfering with your quality of life, your doctor will most likely recommend surgery. Some cataracts may need to be removed because they make it difficult for your doctor to see the retina at the back or the eye. This can make it impossible to diagnose and treat other eye diseases, so it may be best to have the cataract removed. Cataracts can also become so advanced that the cataract itself can cause other eye diseases, such as glaucoma, and therefore should be removed.

What results can I expect from cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery has a very high success rate and a very low rate of complications. In over 90% of cases, useful vision is restored. However, it is surgery, and as with any surgery complications can occur, so good results are not guaranteed. If there are other problems present that are affecting the patient's vision, their results may not be perfect. An exam by an ophthalmologist can determine if there are other problems affecting your vision and what kind of results you could expect from cataract surgery.

When should I have cataract surgery?
Surgery is not always necessary when a cataract is present. In the early stages symptoms may be mild and vision can be improved through a change in eyeglasses. However, when cataracts cause enough vision loss to interfere with your daily activities, removal should be considered. Most patients first experience this at night. The only effective way to remove a cataract is with cataract surgery. You should talk to you eye doctor to determine if you are ready for surgery, or you can schedule a free, no-obligation exam at Cutarelli Vision and we will be happy to answer all your questions and discuss any concerns you have.

What is the recovery time for cataract surgery?
When you have outpatient cataract surgery it is usually possible to resume most of your normal activities the day after surgery. It is very important to attend the follow-up visits for six to eight weeks following surgery. While vision is most often restored to normal levels well before the end of that period, the healing process does take four to six weeks. The post-op visits are crucial because they allow the doctor to observe and advise the patient during their healing time.

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