Close-up of an elderly person's eye, highlighting wrinkles, cataract symptoms, and signs of aging.

Improving Vision by Addressing Cataracts

When the natural lens of the eye becomes clouded, it results in a condition known as a cataract. Typically, cataracts develop as a natural part of the aging process. However, they can also be caused by certain diseases, medications like steroids, or trauma. It’s important to note that a cataract forms within the eye, not on its surface.

The presence of a cataract obstructs the clear focusing of light, leading to blurred vision and difficulties with glare, particularly noticeable when facing oncoming car headlights at night.

Visualize a Camera 

Consider the functioning of your eyes in the same way you would think about the components of a camera. Just like a camera, your eyes have an internal lens that works to focus an image onto a sensitive surface. In the case of a camera, this surface is film–in your eye, it is the retina. The retina can be likened to the camera film as it consists of a delicate layer of light-sensitive cells.

If the lens of a camera were smudged or covered in dirt, the resulting pictures would appear unclear and lacking in detail. Similarly, when the natural crystalline lens in your eye becomes cloudy due to a cataract, the image of the world you perceive becomes blurred and discolored.

A Natural Process Linked to Aging 

Cataracts are a common occurrence as a natural part of the aging process. As individuals approach their mid-sixties, it is typical to develop some form of cataract in either one or both eyes. It’s important to note that cataracts do not cause permanent blindness. They are not tumors, diseases, or growths covering the eye’s surface. Rather, they represent a change in the clarity of the natural lens within the eye.

While most individuals who develop cataracts are older, they can occur at any age for various reasons. In some cases, cataracts are present from birth, and in others, they develop following a significant eye injury. Smokers have a higher likelihood of developing cataracts earlier compared to non-smokers. Additional contributing factors may include family history, prior eye surgeries, medications (such as corticosteroids or those used for chronic inflammation like uveitis), diabetes, or even previous laser vision correction. However, aging remains the primary cause of cataracts.

The formation of cataracts can take several years or occur rapidly within a few months. While it is possible for cataracts to affect both eyes simultaneously, the progression may differ in each eye, with one eye experiencing a faster development.

In the past, the gradual progression of cataracts was referred to as “ripening.” Surgeons would wait until the cataract was ripe before removing it, which involved a single-piece extraction through a large incision. No replacement lens was inserted during this procedure, resulting in limited visual capabilities where patients could perceive light and hand movements. Eventually, thick and heavy “cataract glasses” were developed, providing individuals with a degree of functionality.

Fortunately, the approach to cataract treatment has significantly evolved. Nowadays, cataract surgery is conducted as soon as a person’s vision is impaired to a degree that hinders their normal functioning. This modern surgical procedure involves a small incision through which the cloudy lens is delicately fragmented and removed from the eye. It is then replaced with an artificial lens. In addition, patients now have the option of choosing premium lenses that offer advanced features like astigmatism correction, further enhancing their visual outcome.