A cataract is a cloudiness of the eye’s natural lens. Cataracts develop as the eye ages. Occasionally, trauma, or too much exposure to the sun, can cause cataracts to develop. In rare cases, infants can be born with a congenital cataract.
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
Cataracts typically cause no symptoms until they have grown large enough to interfere significantly with the passage of light through the lens. Once symptoms of cataracts develop, they may include:
cloudy or blurry vision
double vision (diplopia)
a sense that colors appear faded
seeing halos around lights
an increased sensitivity to glare
A distortion of vision that makes objects appear as if you’re looking at them through a veil
Are cataracts found only in older people?
About half of the population has a cataract by age 65, and nearly everyone over 75 has at least one. But in rare cases, infants can have congenital cataracts. These are usually related to the mother having German measles, chickenpox, or another infectious disease during pregnancy, but sometimes they are inherited.
My doctor says I have a cataract, but he wants to wait a while before removing it. Why?
A cataract usually starts very small and may be practically unnoticeable; however, over time it can grow gradually larger and cloudier. Your doctor is probably waiting until the cataract interferes significantly with your vision and your lifestyle.
You need to continue to visit your eye doctor regularly so the cataracts progress is monitored. Some cataracts never really reach the stage where they should be removed.
If your cataract is interfering with your vision to the point where it is unsafe to drive, or doing everyday tasks is difficult, then it’s time to discuss surgery with your doctor.
Is cataract surgery serious?
Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed type of surgery in the United States. However, any surgery involves some risk. At Northeast Ohio Eye Surgeons, we have performed tens of thousands of successful cataract surgeries. Choosing a surgeon with this much experience will help reduce the risk of a less than perfect outcome.
My father had cataract surgery a few years ago, and he had to wear thick glasses afterward. Is this still necessary?
Nowadays, cataract patients who have intraocular lenses (IOLs) implanted during surgery may need reading glasses for close vision, but that’s about it.
In fact, with the newer multifocal and accommodating IOLs, even reading glasses may not be necessary.
People who don’t receive IOLs wear contact lenses for distance vision, with reading glasses for close up. Or they may wear multifocal contact lenses for all distances. Rarely does anyone have to wear thick eye glasses now.
How long does cataract surgery take and how soon after surgery will I be able to resume normal activity?
All of our cataract procedures are performed at an outpatient facility and take approximately 20 minutes to complete. The surgery is virtually painless and most patients resume their normal activities, including driving, within a day or two.
You will be given medications to prevent infection and control inflammation. A protective shield is advisable while sleeping; sunglasses can provide protection during the day. For several days after surgery, patients should avoid any heavy lifting or straining, which can increase pressure in the eye. Rubbing or pushing of the eye, and any situation that could result in being hit in the eye, are also to be avoided. Careful showering and shampooing are permitted, as long as no soap or shampoo touches the eye. Any makeup around the eye should be avoided for several weeks. Public swimming pools, hot tubs, and other potential sources of bacterial contamination should also be avoided. When in doubt, you should consult our surgical staff for guidelines regarding post-surgical activities.
Will my medical problems prevent me from undergoing cataract surgery safely?
Preoperatively, we may ask your family physician to evaluate you and ensure that your blood pressure, blood sugar, and general medical problems are under control. As the procedure is typically performed with anesthetic drops alone (no injections), there is minimal risk associated with the procedure. Because the same types of topical medicines are used during the pre-operative exam, if you are able to tolerate the examination well then you will tolerate the surgery well.
Are there possible side effects of cataract surgery?
Very few patients have serious problems or cataract surgery complications. However, as with any surgery, pain, infection, swelling and bleeding are possible. Your surgeon may prescribe medications for these effects.
Retinal detachment also occurs in a few people. Be on the lookout for excessive pain, vision loss, or nausea, and report these symptoms to your eye surgeon.
Thank you. Because of the lenses you inserted I can now see people at the pool, can see the clock, and can see the steps under the water. I have swam laps for 50 years because relationships were impossible without my glasses. Now I can greet people and see their response. It's a whole new world. Thank you.