What is a Cataract?
Cataract is the name given to the Crystalline Lens –the natural lens inside our eyes– when it becomes opaque. Located behind the pupil it acts as the lens of a camera, allowing the passage of light and focusing the images on the retina, which in turn sends them to the brain, where vision occurs. To perform this function optimally the lens must be completely transparent.
The most common are:
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- Perception of opaque or yellowish colors
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Presence of halos in night vision
- Photophobia (discomfort caused by light)
- Need for more reading light
- Need for frequent changes in prescription glasses or contact lenses
- Improved near vision for no apparent reason
- Age is the most common cause of cataracts, usually presenting from the age of 60.
- Other factors include:
- Eye or metabolic diseases, such as diabetes
- The consumption of certain drugs, such as steroids
- Overexposure to the sun without ultraviolet eye protection (UV)
- May be present at birth
Definitive treatment for cataracts remains surgical treatment. This procedure consists of extracting the opaque lens, replacing it with the lastest generation artificial IOL, which may have different focusing abilities for distant, intermediate and/or near vision.
Traditional IOLs may induce small optical imperfections called higher-order aberrations, which can affect the quality of vision, especially in low light conditions. Advanced technology aspherical lenses more closely resemble the shape and optical quality of the natural eye lens, so they can provide clearer vision:
- Toric lenses that correct astigmatism, in addition to farsightedness and myopia.
- Trifocal aspherical intraocular lenses that correct presbyopia. The patient will be able to clearly appreciate distant, intermediate and near objects without prescription/reading glasses (or on very few occasions) after surgery.
The most advanced technique applied in cataract surgery is the femtosecond laser, which allows the procedure to be personalized to each patient's eye. Although all human eyes share the same anatomical structure, each eye varies in terms of size, depth, curvature of the cornea and other key features, which is why each eye should be carefully measured and mapped. The laser allows for less inflammation in the intraocular tissues and faster visual recovery.
The femtosecond laser provides a greater level of predictability and precision than usually may not be achieved with the traditional surgery.
(*a femtosecond is one billionth of a second [10-15])
Today, many patients achieve good vision without the need for prescription/reading glasses after cataract surgery. However, some patients may present ocular reasons which require the use of prescription glasses for very specific activities and -in very few cases- to wear continually after surgery.
Although cataracts may not be prevented, they can be detected during routine eye examinations. It is advisable to visit the ophthalmologist periodically.
- You can slow the progress of cataracts by wearing sunglasses with UV protection.
- There are no special medications, exercises or diets that prevent or cure cataracts.
- Consider cataract surgery when they stop you from performing your regular activities.
- Thanks to advances in medical technology, cataract surgery is an ambulatory procedure, quick and painless, with minimal risk and prompt recovery.
- Cataract surgery is one of the most frequently performed procedures worldwide.
- Cataracts do not have to limit your lifestyle.