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Questions and Answers About Cataracts and Cataract Surgery

Illustration of Congenital cataract
Cataracts are a common eye problem as people get older, but you won’t necessarily lose your eyesight or automatically need surgery if you develop them. In the past, people who got cataracts were sometimes relegated to slowly going blind in one or both eyes. However, in the last sixty years, surgical techniques have become safer and have improved to the point where you may not need glasses at all afterward.

Learn the answers to some common questions about cataracts and cataract surgery.

What Are Cataracts?

When you're young, the lens in your eye is fairly clear and flexible. As you age, this lens gets thicker, more rigid, and cloudy. During this time, you will likely notice your vision deteriorating, but only in small amounts. Eventually, the lens completely clouds over and becomes noticeably opaque. This process happens gradually, and your doctor is likely to see a cataract in your eye before you realize you have one.

What Causes Cataracts?

Cataracts are mostly age-related, but certain factors contribute to when you get them and how bad they get. Genetics, sunlight exposure, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking increase the chance that you will get cataracts early. Certain medications, both legal and illegal, can also hasten the development of cataracts.

How Can Cataracts Be Prevented?

While cataracts aren't 100% preventable, you can take steps to keep them from developing early or worsening quickly. Things like protecting your eyes from the sun with sunglasses or hats and not smoking will greatly reduce your chances of needing surgery. Avoid using corticosteroids, especially in eye drops, for long periods of time unless your doctor recommends it. See your eye doctor regularly for early detection.

When Is Surgery Necessary?

Not all cataracts require surgery — or need it right away — especially if they're not causing serious problems. In the beginning, your eyesight can be corrected through prescription changes. You can also purchase special polarized sunglasses that might help reduce glare and improve clarity while outdoors.

However, if you find that you can no longer see well enough to drive at night, do your work, or enjoy your favorite hobbies, then it might be time to consider surgery.

Who Is Not a Good Candidate for Cataract Surgery?

While most people are good candidates for cataract surgery, for some people it may be more of a risk than a benefit. People who have other eye problems, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or other types of retinal issues, will likely receive little benefit from replacing the eye's lens. Your doctor will examine your eyes for those issues as well as any other anomalies before recommending surgery.

What Happens During Cataract Surgery?

Most people are given a mild sedative but are mostly awake during surgery. Your eye will be numbed with medications to make the procedure completely painless. During the surgery, your old, cloudy lens will be removed and replaced with a new, clear one. The procedure generally takes less than an hour and takes one visit per eye. You may feel groggy afterward, so you should have someone drive you home.

After surgery, your doctor will give you post-operative instructions that will ensure that your lens settles in correctly. You may have to wear a special eye shield and avoid or limit certain activities that may cause injury or pressure to the eye. Your vision may also be blurry at first but should improve over time. Be sure to attend all follow-up appointments for the best results.

If you are concerned about cataracts or if you just want to have your eyes checked, then call Dr. Evans and Dr. Carter Optometry for an appointment.