Cataracts

  • 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: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Cataracts Pictures Slideshow

Quick GuideCataracts Causes, Symptoms, Vision Tests and Surgery

Cataracts Causes, Symptoms, Vision Tests and Surgery

What is the treatment for cataracts?

People with early cataract will find that changing their glasses, using sunglasses to decrease glare and having better lighting to read can significantly alleviate their symptoms. Magnifying lenses for close work and reading fine print may also be helpful.

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.

Patients' responses to the presence of a cataract vary. A cataract in only one eye may be disturbing to a particular patient and may not cause significant symptoms in another patient.

Cataracts usually do not harm your eye, so you can have surgery when it is convenient for you and when the cataract interferes with your daily activities. Once you understand the benefits and risks of surgery, you can make an informed decision about whether cataract surgery is right for you. In most cases, delaying cataract surgery will not cause long-term damage to your eye or make the surgery more difficult.

If the eye has other diseases that have caused visual loss such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, or optic nerve damage from glaucoma or other disease, cataract surgery may not improve the vision.

Occasionally, your doctor may recommend removal of a cataract if it prevents the diagnosis or treatment of another eye problem, such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.

If both eyes have cataracts and surgery is agreed upon, the surgery on the second eye is generally planned at least a week after the first eye. There is usually no harm in waiting a much longer period of time between the two eye operations.

Because the lens of the eye is necessary to accurately focus light onto the retinal surface and removal of the cataract involves removal of the lens, modern cataract surgery combines removal of the lens and placement of a new artificial lens into the eye. Measurements for the size, shape, and power of this lens will be taken prior to the surgery so that the specific lens can be available for implantation at the time of surgery.

More than 3 million cataract surgeries are performed annually in the United States. Cataract surgery is extremely safe and effective, improving vision in the vast majority of patients.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2016

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