Cataract Surgery

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Learn about treatment options for cataracts.

Treatment of Cataracts

Many cataracts are not bothersome, causing few symptoms. In that situation, no surgical treatment is necessary. However, the only true treatment for cataract is surgical removal of the cloudy lens. Surgery is suggested if the patient loses the ability to perform necessary activities of everyday life, such as driving, reading, or looking at computer or video screens, even with glasses, and there is the expectation that vision will improve as a result of the surgery.

Quick GuideCataracts Causes, Symptoms, Vision Tests, and Surgery

Cataracts Causes, Symptoms, Vision Tests, and Surgery

Cataract surgery facts

  • Early symptoms of cataracts include blurred vision, glare, and difficulty reading.
  • Cataracts will affect most people and become more prominent as we age.
  • Cataracts can be diagnosed when the doctor examines the eyes with specialized viewing instruments.
  • The decision to proceed with cataract surgery is primarily based on the amount of difficulty you have performing your routine daily activities.
  • Treatment for cataracts is surgical removal of the cataract with implantation of an artificial lens.
  • There are a variety of intraocular lens types that can restore vision in different ways.
  • Cataract surgery is a safe and effective way to restore vision with serious complications being unusual.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is an eye disease in which the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque, causing a decrease in vision. The natural lens of the eye focuses light onto the back of the eye (the retina) so images appear clear and without distortion. The clouding of this lens during cataract formation causes blurring and distortion of vision. Cataracts are usually a very gradual process of normal aging but can occasionally develop rapidly. They commonly affect both eyes, but it is not uncommon for a cataract in one eye to advance more rapidly. Cataracts are very common, especially among the elderly.

Precisely why cataracts occur is unknown. However, most cataracts appear to be caused by changes in the protein structures within the natural lens that occur over many years and cause the lens to become cloudy. Rarely, cataracts can present at birth or in early childhood as a result of hereditary enzyme defects, other genetic disease, or systemic congenital infections. Severe trauma to the eye, eye surgery, or intraocular inflammation can also cause cataracts to develop more rapidly. Other factors that may lead to development of cataracts at an earlier age include excessive ultraviolet light exposure, exposure to ionizing radiation, diabetes, smoking, or the use of certain medications, such as oral, topical, or inhaled steroids. Other medications that may be associated with cataracts include the long-term use of statins and phenothiazines.

The total number of people who have cataracts is estimated to increase to 30 million by 2020. When people develop cataracts, they begin to have difficulty doing activities they enjoy. Some of the most common complaints include difficulty driving at night, reading, watching television or movies, and recognizing faces. These are all activities for which clear vision is essential.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016

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