Cataract Treatment

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye that prevents light from reaching the retina. It results in blurred vision, glare and halos around objects.


When a patient has small or slowly developing cataracts, they can compensate temporarily with prescription glasses or bifocals or avoiding activity such as driving at night. Eventually, surgery to replace the clouded lens may be needed.


The most common cause of cataract is aging. Other causes include trauma, medications such as steroids, systemic diseases such as diabetes, and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. Occasionally, babies are born with a cataract.


Cataracts typically develop slowly and progressively, causing a gradual and painless decrease in vision. Other changes you might experience include blurry vision; glare, particularly at night; frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription; a decrease in color intensity; a yellowing of images; and in rare cases, double vision.



Commonly asked questions

Q. What causes a cataract to form?

A. It isn't known why cataracts form but some common risk factors have been identified:

  • Advancing age
  • Ultraviolet light exposure
  • Diabetes
  • Steroid medication
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption


Q. How are cataracts treated?

A. With a routine, outpatient cataract surgery procedure, an ophthalmologist can remove the cataract. 


The procedure usually requires only numbing medications around the eye. Through a very small incision on the eye, the surgeon inserts a small, ultrasound instrument (phacoemulsification device) to break up the cloudy lens and vacuum it out. A synthetic intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted at the time of cataract extraction to replace the focusing power of the natural lens. These incisions are usually self-sealing, requiring no stitches.


After surgery, eye drop medications will be given for several weeks to help the eye heal and prevent infection. Usually, vision returns quickly and one can resume normal activities within a short period of time.


Q. What are intraocular lenses?

A. An intraocular lens (IOL) is a tiny, lightweight, clear disc placed in the eye during cataract surgery. An IOL replaces the focusing power of the eye's natural lens. Unlike contact lenses, which must be removed, cleaned, and reinserted, the IOL remains in the eye after surgery for the rest of your life.


The basic type of IOL is the monofocal (or single-focus) IOL. The monofocal lens helps you attain clearer vision at one distance. Note that eyeglasses and contact lenses are still required in order for you to see clearly at all ranges of distance.


Another advanced type of IOL is the multifocal (or multiple-focus) IOL. The latest multifocal lens has areas of different powers built into the lens to allow you to see clearly at far, near, and intermediate distances.


If you are going to have cataract surgery, your ophthalmologist will discuss which IOL may be best for your eyes and lifestyle.