A cataract is the clouding of the lens in the eye. When we look at something, light beams travel into our eye through the pupil and focus on the retina (a layer of cells that are sensitive to light on the back of the eye) through the lens. The lens must be transparent in order to focus light properly onto the retina. If the lens has become cloudy, this is called cataract.
If your vision has become blurry, cloudy or dim, or if the things that you see are not as bright or colourful as they used to be, a cataract may have developed in one or both of your eyes. Many people describe cataracts as similar to the effect of looking through a dirty car windshield.
As a cataract slowly starts to develop, you may not notice any changes in your vision at first. However, as the cataract progresses, you may begin to feel that it interferes with your daily activities. If a complete eye test is performed, your ophthalmologist can tell you if it is a cataract or if any other problem is causing your vision loss.
Even though cataracts are one of the most common causes of vision loss, especially as we grow old, you can treat them with cataract surgery. Since most cataracts are part of the normal aging process, they cannot be reversed. There are no medications or eye drops that would make cataracts disappear. Surgery is the only treatment. Once cataracts have been diagnosed, your ophthalmologist must check regularly if there have been any changes in your vision.
Progression of the symptoms
Little by little, as cataracts progress, you may experience these symptoms:
Cataracts develop as part of the natural process of aging. That is why we are all at risk, eventually. By age 75, about 70% of people will develop cataracts.
Thank to cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced by a new artificial and transparent one, called intraocular lens (IOL)
Cataract surgery procedure
The most common procedure used for removing cataracts is called phacoemulsification.
A small incision is made in the side of the cornea, and a tiny instrument that uses high-frequency ultrasound is inserted to break up the center of the cloudy lens and to carefully suction it out.
After the cloudy lens has been removed, the surgeon will replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL). This new transparent lens will allow light to pass through and focus properly on the retina. The IOL becomes a permanent part of your eye. When the IOL is in place, the surgeon closes the incision.
Types of intraocular lenses
Before intraocular lenses were developed, people had to wear very thick eyeglasses or special contact lenses to be able to see after cataract surgery. Now, with cataract lens replacement, there are several types of IOL implants available.
Like your eye’s natural lens, an IOL focuses light that comes into your eye through the cornea and pupil onto the retina. Like the lenses of prescribed eyeglasses, your IOL will contain the appropriate prescription to give you the best vision possible.
Most people who choose monofocals have their IOLs set for distance vision and use reading glasses for near activities.
Presbyopia is a condition that affects everyone at some point after age 40, when the eye’s lens becomes less flexible and makes near vision more difficult, especially in low light. Since presbyopia makes it difficult to see near objects clearly, even people without cataracts need reading glasses or an equivalent form of vision correction. These newer IOLs types reduce or eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses.
In a multifocal type, a series of focal zones or rings is designed into the IOL. Depending on where incoming light focuses through the zones, the person may be able to see both near and distant objects clearly. Each person’s success with these IOLs may depend on the size of his/her pupils and other eye health factors.
Some side effects such as glare or halos around lights, or decreased sharpness of vision (contrast sensitivity) may occur, especially at night or in dim light. Most people adapt to and do not mind these effects, but those who frequently drive at night or need to focus on close-up work may be more satisfied with monofocal IOLs.
This is a monofocal IOL with astigmatism correction built into the lens. Astigmatism is an eye condition that distorts or hinders the ability to see both near and distant objects, resulting in a blurry vision. In general, people with significant degrees of astigmatism are usually most satisfied with toric IOLs.
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