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What are Cataracts?

What are Cataracts?

“You’ve got cataracts”.

These three words can still fill a patient’s mind with worry and fear when their doctor has to utter them. Memories still linger of parents and grandparents going to the hospital and needing a week of bed rest only to be chained to thick glasses for the rest of their lives once the surgery was complete. Luckily for all of us those days are a thing of the past.

These days cataract surgery is a 20-minute procedure that should not be feared. With modern implant surgery bed rest is not necessary and the visual outcomes are often nothing short of miraculous.

So what are cataracts and how do you fix them?

Everyone’s eyes have two lenses they use to see with. The cornea is the lens on the front of the eye where contact lenses are placed. The cornea’s job is to help you see distance objects clearly. If the cornea has an improper power than contact lenses, glasses or LASIK surgery is necessary to provide clear distance vision.

Within the eye, hiding behind the iris (the colored part of the eye), there is a lens whose job is to provide for you’re near vision needs. This lens bends to allow more power to be created to see close objects clearly. All light entering the eye must travel through this lens.

This inner lens will begin to get cloudy in our later life just as our hair turns grey with time. This clouding of the lens is called early cataract formation and causes deterioration to the vision that prescription changes can correct. Your Optometrist will carefully monitor you during this time and continue to provide you with good vision with your glasses or contacts. However, over the course of years the cataracts ultimately progress to a point where the lens becomes cloudy enough that these solutions will no longer provide the vision a patient wants.

When this happens your Optometrist arranges for a surgeon to do a very quick surgical procedure where the clouded lens is removed from the eye and a clear artificial lens is implanted in its place. After taking careful measurements the surgeon can calculate the power of the implant that not only cures the cloudiness of the vision from the cataract but can also factor in the original glasses prescription thus remove either all or at least the bulk of the need for distance glasses after surgery. There are even new implants that can restore quite a bit of the reading prescription too. The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes and you can go about your normal activities the next day with just a few small exceptions.

Cataracts are a fact of life and virtually no one who is lucky enough to live into their 70’s and 80’s does not eventually need this procedure. It is our “reward” for living a good and full life. We are fortunate to live in a time where the solution is so simple and safe. Rest assured that the doctors at the Brookside Optometric Group will help guide you when you too enter into this stage of life and be there for you throughout the entire process.


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