Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. As we age, cataracts continue to grow and slowly decrease vision, eventually obscuring vision completely. With the help of medical advances, however, cataracts easily are removed.
Cataracts are normal, age-related changes in the crystalline lens. Although cataracts are noticeable after the age of 40, patients typically do not start to notice any visual significance until their mid to late 60s. Imagine being worried for 20 years about something that will take your sight! When vision is affected, that is the time to start the education process.
The first thing to explore is the different options for lenses that will be placed in the eye during surgery. Each has its advantages and drawbacks and must be considered based on the needs and condition of the patient.
Standard lens implants are almost always aspheric. These lens allow improved contrast sensitivity, especially in low lighting. There are no bells and whistles with this option, but it gets the job done. Multifocal and toric are a few types of premium lens implants. A multifocal implant enables patients to see both distance and near, although night vision glare is often an issue. Toric IOLs are available starting at 1 diopter of astigmatism but are likely preferable for anyone who has greater then 1.50 diopters of astigmatism.
Many patients ask about laser cataract surgery. The femtosecond laser makes more accurate incisions during surgery and slightly decreases recovery time. Statistically, though, there is no visual benefit to having cataract surgery with the laser. That could change eventually as it is expected that the laser will continue to improve.
The good news: Surgery is simple for the patient, who can walk in and out on the same day. The surgery lasts only 15 minutes and vision improves within hours to days following surgery. The only difficult part is for the patient to decide on which lens to choose.
Simmons is an optometrist at St. Luke's Eye Care & Laser Center