Welcome to the Cornea by Kane blog, your trusted source for an honest opinion about your eyes.
June is cataract awareness month! Why the exclamation point? Well for starters, I am very passionate about restoring vision and helping patients see better with cataract surgery. While cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, they are treatable! So today, I will cover information about the signs and symptoms of cataracts, how we treat them, and what to do if you think you have one.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens inside your eye. It is the lens you are born with and it sits just behind your iris (the colored part inside the eye.) Over time, the lens can become yellow, cloudy, harden and block light from entering the eye.
How common is a cataract in the United States?
Very common. The CDC estimated in 2020 that about 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older have a cataract in 1 or both eyes. That’s about 17% of the population! So if you have a cataract, you are not alone. (CDC article on common causes of blindness in the US.)
What are the types of cataracts?
There are several types of cataracts and they form for different reasons. The most common type of cataract is called a nuclear cataract. This is when the lens hardens and turns a yellow color and is thought to be a normal aging change. Another common kind of cataract is called a posterior subcapsular cataract. This is when the back surface of the lens forms an opaque sheet-like change that blocks the light. Another type of cataract is called a cortical cataract. This type is when the lens forms white spoke-like changes which can progress to turning the whole lens white!
What are the symptoms of cataract?
The most common cataract symptoms that patients report are decreased vision, difficulty seeing at night, and glare or halos around lights. Sometimes a cataract can cause a worsening nearsighted change in your glasses prescription. Cataracts progress at a different speed in everyone. In some patients, they mature slowly over years and in other patients they can progress to affecting the vision in a matter of months.
What are some risk factors for cataracts?
The main risk factor for cataract formation is age. So if you live long enough, everyone will eventually get a cataract. Other risk factors for developing a cataract include UV rays from the sun, diabetes mellitus, autoimmune disease, trauma, genetics (family history of cataracts), using steroids, and smoking.
When should a cataract be treated?
Cataracts should be treated when the vision complaint starts to cause problems with your daily activities. Some common vision complaints include glare from car headlights, difficulty driving (especially at night), and trouble reading. Others may notice difficulty seeing street signs, have trouble seeing in the rain, or difficulty seeing the ball in sports like golf or tennis.
How is a cataract treated?
Currently, the only treatment for a cataract is cataract surgery. Typically, the procedure is done in an outpatient surgery center and is relatively quick. Patients go home the same day. The steps of cataract surgery include breaking the cataract into pieces, vacuuming it from the eye, and placing a new lens implant in the eye. During surgery, patients typically experience bright lights and cold water. While some will notice pressure, the procedure is generally not painful. Vision recovery is different in every patient and can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. For most patients, the vision is already improving by the next day.
Can cataract surgery help patients see better without glasses?
Yes! and we call it refractive cataract surgery. With modern cataract surgery, it is now possible for many patients to reduce and often eliminate their dependence on glasses afterward. As a refractive surgeon, this is something that I am particularly passionate about! It is truly rewarding to help someone who needed glasses for most of their life be able to see without them. Cataract surgery is only done once in your lifetime. So it is important to decide what your vision goals are beforehand and have that discussion with your cataract surgeon.
Helpful links for more information
To learn more about cataracts, please visit the Tailored Eyes Eye Conditions page on cataracts or click here.
For more information about refractive cataract surgery, please visit the Tailored Eyes page on lens implants and astigmatism correction or click here.
For suggestions on how to choose your cataract surgeon, please read my blog post called top 3 tips to pick your cataract surgeon or click here.
To learn more about cataract surgery lens implants, please read my blog post called top 3 cataract surgery lens implants or click here.
While cataracts are a common cause of blindness worldwide and of vision loss in the US, there are excellent treatments available today. For many patients, cataract surgery not only improves their vision, but it can improve their quality of life as well. If you know someone who has a cataract or if you think you may have one, then call Tailored Eyes or your local ophthalmologist for an appointment. Take heart in knowing it is truly an exciting time to have cataract surgery.
I’m Dr. Kane, and that’s my take on it.
At Tailored Eyes, we will perform a thorough evaluation of your eyes. Together we will develop a customized treatment plan to meet your vision needs.
Steven Kane, MD, FAAO is a Cataract, Cornea, and Refractive Surgery specialist with Tailored Eyes in Sarasota county Florida. He proudly serves the people of Venice, South Venice, Sarasota, Plantation, Osprey, Nokomis, Laurel, Siesta Key, Casey Key, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Anna Maria, Palmetto, Ellenton, St. Petersburg, Englewood, North Port, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Charlotte Harbor, Manasota Key, Arcadia, Fort Myers and Cape Coral.