You may have cataracts if your vision has become hazy or if it appears as if you’re looking out a foggy window. Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. This typically occurs gradually – and is very common among older adults. Cataracts can also occur as a side effect of certain medications or due to some systemic medical conditions. In these cases, your vision may deteriorate more quickly, within months.
The good news is that cataracts are entirely treatable. Ophthalmologist Dr. George Char at Loudoun Eye Care specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cataracts.
What Exactly Is a Cataract?
Behind the iris (the colored area of your eye), there is a crystalline lens. This lens is normally clear and allows light to be focused onto the retina or the back surface of your eye. Due to advancing age or other causes, the lens can become cloudy – a condition that gets progressively worse over time. This clouding of the natural lens is called a cataract.
How Do I Know If My Vision Problems Are Due to Cataracts?
Symptoms of cataracts include blurry vision (at any distance) and difficulty seeing in dim light or with night driving. You may also be more sensitive to glare from lights or see halos around lights.
In its early stages, a cataract cannot be seen with the naked eye. However, your eye doctor can see signs of cataracts during a comprehensive cataract evaluation that includes a slit-lamp exam. This device allows your eye doctor to examine the front of your eye, including the lens, under magnification.
Stronger eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions can help you see during the early stages of cataracts.
Ultimately, however, surgery will be needed to remove the cataract and restore your vision. Once the clouding of the lens begins, there are no medications that can reverse the process.
Deciding when it’s time for cataract surgery is a personal decision based on how much of an impact the cataracts are having on your day-to-day activities and quality of life. Dr. Char can help you identify when it may be time for you to have cataract surgery.
How Cataract Surgery Is Performed
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that takes less than an hour to complete. Approximately 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery each year, and 95% of them achieve the best corrected vision, between 20/20 and 20/40.
During cataract surgery, the natural crystalline lens is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) implant. Dr. Char offers his patients sutureless cataract surgery using the most advanced IOLs.
The surgery involves entering the eye through a tiny incision in the cornea. The crystalline lens is surrounded by a thin membrane or capsule that keeps the lens in a steady position within the eye. The front surface of the capsule is gently opened, and the lens material is removed in small fragments through a process called phacoemulsification. Once all of the lens material is removed, a foldable IOL implant is carefully positioned within the original capsule.
Specialty Intraocular Lenses
The eye’s natural crystalline lens is flexible when we are born. Small muscles in the eye allow the lens to bend back and forth, so we can change our focus from distant to near. The flexibility of the lens gradually decreases with age, thereby increasing our dependence on reading glasses. This condition is called presbyopia. Likewise, when we remove the natural lens during cataract surgery, we eliminate the eye's ability to focus on objects up close. This makes reading glasses necessary after cataract surgery.
Although surgery cannot restore lens flexibility, specialized technology now makes it possible to decrease your dependence on glasses after cataract extraction. We achieve this through specialty intraocular lenses.
The traditional lens implant, a monofocal intraocular lens, corrects a single range of vision. Patients who receive this lens during cataract surgery can elect to have either their distance or near vision corrected. Most patients elect to correct their distance vision with this type of lens. Glasses are then required for reading only.
Multifocal IOLs allows different areas of the lens to correct both distance and near vision. The lens has cutting-edge optics that allow light to be distributed to different focal points. In studies, nearly all patients were satisfied with the results, although a small percentage experienced continued difficulty seeing in low light conditions.
Accommodative IOLs also decrease dependence on glasses after cataract surgery by correcting both distance and near vision. The technology behind this type of lens is different than a multifocal lens, because accommodative IOLs gently move back and forth as you focus on near or far items, thus more closely mimicking your natural lens.
Toric IOLs are used to correct astigmatism, which is vision difficulty due to an irregularly shaped cornea. Instead of having a cornea that is round like a basketball, patients with astigmatism have a cornea that is curved like a football, preventing the eye from focusing clearly on objects. A toric IOL will correct astigmatism, but it does not have the multifocal properties to correct distance and near vision simultaneously. Patients with astigmatism may also correct it with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or additional surgery.
Cataract Surgeon in Ashburn, VA
If your vision is blurry – or if you suspect you may have cataracts, find out what your options are by calling Loudoun Eye Care in Ashburn, Virginia, at (703) 723-8988 today. You can also quickly and easily request an appointment now.