What exactly is cataract?
Cataract is the clouding of the eye lens. In essence, it is not a disease but the result of normal lens ageing which everyone will experience from a certain age onwards anyway. Now, age when symptoms present themselves might differ from patient to patient, still the majority of patients develop cataract once they are past the age of 60. A small percentage of patients develop it when they are younger (even in childhood, either due to hereditary reasons or due to other eye conditions or even due to use of drugs such as cortisone).
What are the symptoms?
The main cataract symptom is the gradual diminution of eye sight and opacity of vision, which may be limited in the first stages of the disease but progressively gets worse and eventually it gets difficult for patients to perform even daily routine activities. Normally both eyes are affected, though to possibly differing extents. Moreover, cataract patients may be more sensitive to light, need to change their eye glasses more frequently or even could find themselves not needing reading glasses at a really advanced age!
Is there a treatment for cataract?
The only treatment for cataract is surgical. Ultrasounds are actually used, and not laser therapy as laypeople often suggest, to replace the patient’s lens with a special plastic intraocular lens (IOL). Contrary to what people used to think in the past, it is preferable to have surgery sooner than later as it takes less energy in the OR. Surgery is normally performed under local anesthesia (in the form of eye drops), a small incision is made (approximately 3 mm long), there are no stitches and overall the procedure should last no more than a few minutes. It is so safe that even many non-cataract patients choose to undergo this procedure to get rid of their reading glasses when they have high myopia or hypermetropia! After surgery patients do need glasses but only to read, but not to clearly see at a distance or afar. This new development, intraocular lens implantation, means patients can see as if they still have the normal lens they used to have when they were much younger!
What scope is there when use of IOL is opted for?
Intraocular lens implantation guarantees that an great percentage of patients shall no longer need to use glasses unless they are trying to make out very fine print or have to drive for hours especially through the night. Generally speaking patients do not need glasses anymore and still manage to get through 80 to 90% of their daily activities.