Cataracts – Causes and Treatments

Cataracts Patient

Cataracts Patient

A widespread disorder in the eye is the development of cataracts. For many people, getting cataracts are a natural part of the aging process. According to the National Institute of Health, in the United States alone, more than 24.4 million people over the age of 40 have been affected by cataracts. This number is expected to jump to 50 million by the year 2050.

Facts About Cataracts

A cataract is when your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy, as proteins in your lens break down and cause things to look blurry, hazy, or less colorful. Cataracts are diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam after your doctor rules out other conditions that can cause blurry vision. Common cataract symptoms include blurry vision, faded colors, trouble seeing at night, and halos appearing around light. While most cataracts are caused simply by getting older, they can also be caused or worsened by several conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Previous eye surgery or trauma
  • Certain medications
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun, especially without UV protection

While the likelihood of developing cataracts in your lifetime is reasonably high, there are some things one can do to slow the progression of cataracts:

  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection
  • If you smoke, stop smoking
  • Keep blood glucose levels under control if diabetic
  • Make sure glasses and/or contact lens prescriptions are up-to-date

Treating Cataracts

Diagram of Cataract Surgery

Diagram of Cataract Surgery

While there are instances when cataracts are managed without surgery in the early stages, ultimately, they may require surgery. Patients should consider surgery when it becomes too challenging to complete their typical activities on a day-to-day basis due to their vision or unsafe driving. If you require surgery, whether you have manual or laser surgery, it is a short, outpatient procedure using light IV sedation. The surgeon makes a small incision in the cornea that creates an opening in the lens capsule that contains the cataract. After the cataract is removed using an ultrasound probe, a lens implant is put in its place (see photo).

About Intraocular Lens Transplants (IOLs)

There are four types of IOLs on the market used for cataract surgery: monofocal, multifocal, extended depth of focus (EDOF), and toric. Monofocal is the most common type of implant used during cataract surgery and the only one typically covered by insurance. Patients with these lenses still require glasses after surgery. Multifocal lenses are designed to provide patients with both near and distance vision, using different zones set at various powers. EDOF lenses similarly offer different lengths of sight, but these lenses are designed with a single elongated focal point to enhance the “range of vision.” Both of these lenses are designed to reduce the need for glasses after surgery. Toric lenses are designed to treat patients who also have astigmatism in their cornea.

While treating patients with cataracts daily, physicians and scientists at the University of Pittsburgh work to improve treatment options for ophthalmic diseases. This type of innovative research is only made possible with support from generous donors to the Eye & Ear Foundation. If you’d like to be a part of this groundbreaking work being done, please consider making a gift to help support our research.

Sight + Sound Bites Webinar

This presentation by Deepinder Dhaliwal, MD, L.Ac and Roheena Kamyar, MD focuses on research and treatment advances for cataract surgery at the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

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