Inside each of our eyes, we have a natural lens that bends light in order to help us see. In healthy eyes, this lens is clear. However, if you develop something called cataracts, this lens will become cloudy. This cloudy lens can feel like you’re looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield, and your vision can become blurry, hazy, or less colorful.
You may find it difficult to read and drive - especially at night - or to see the expression on someone’s face. Most cataracts develop slowly over time, and don’t tend to disturb one’s eyesight early on. Early in the development of cataracts, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help treat your impaired vision. But as the condition develops and your vision continues to deteriorate, you may need cataract surgery.
Types of cataracts include:
Cortical Cataracts: You will begin to notice a cortical cataract appearing if you notice one or more whitish, wedge-shaped opacities or streaks on the outer edge of the lens cortex. As the cataract slowly progresses, the streaks extend to the center of the eye and interfere with light passing through the center of the lens.
Posterior Subscapsular Cataracts: A posterior subcapsular cataract starts as a small, opaque area that usually forms near the back of the lens, right in the path of light. This type of cataract often interferes with your reading vision, reduces your vision in bright light, and causes glare or halos around lights at night, and they typically progress faster than other types of cataracts.
Nuclear Sclerotic Cataracts: You may be experiencing a nuclear sclerotic cataract if at first you experience increased nearsightedness or even a temporary improvement in your reading vision. But with nuclear sclerotic cataracts, with time the lens gradually turns more densely yellow and further clouds your vision. As the cataract progresses, the lens can even turn brown. Advanced yellowing or browning of the lens can lead to difficulty distinguishing between shades of color.
When your prescription glasses are no longer capable of helping your vision, the only effective treatment for cataracts is surgery. You’ll want to discuss with your provider whether or not cataract surgery is right for you. Most eye doctors suggest considering surgery when your cataracts begin to affect your quality of life, or interfere with your ability to perform normal daily activities. But typically there is no rush to perform the surgery because cataracts do not usually harm the eye. However, if you have diabetes, your cataracts may progress at a faster rate than other patients.
If you choose not to forego cataract surgery now, your eye doctor will most likely recommend periodic follow-up exams to see if and how your cataracts are progressing. Discuss with your provider how frequently you should be scheduling these follow-up examinations.
During cataract surgery, the clouded lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens. The artificial lens, also known as the intraocular lens, is positioned in the same place as your natural lens and will remain a permanent part of your eye. For some people, other eye problems can prohibit the use of an artificial lens.
In these situations, your doctor will still remove your cataract but will forego the artificial lens. Instead, your vision may be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. During the procedure, your eye doctor will use local anesthetic to numb the area around your eye, but you usually stay awake while your cataract is removed. Patients undergoing cataract surgery typically don’t need to stay in a hospital after the procedure.
You can expect your vision to begin improving within a few days of cataract surgery. It’s normal for your vision to be blurry at first as your eye heals and adjusts. Your eye may also feel itchy and mildly uncomfortable for a couple days, but avoid rubbing or pushing on your eye if possible and remember to use the prescribed eye drops to help with the healing process. Additionally, colors may seem brighter because you are looking through a new, clear lens.
Normally your eye doctor will want to see you a day or two after your surgery, the following week, and then again after about a month later in order to monitor your eye and how it is healing.
Most of the discomfort should disappear after a couple of days and complete healing often occurs within eight weeks.
In order to prevent infection, reduce inflammation, and control eye pressure, your doctor may prescribe eye drops or other medication. Sometimes, these medications can be injected into the eye at the time of surgery. Common prescriptions include antibiotics like Besivance and Moxifloxacin, Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatories like Bromsite, Prolensa, and Ketoralac, or steroids like Inveltys, Durezol, and Prednisolone.
If you have questions or concerns regarding your cataract surgery, reach out to your provider.