Columnists

CATARACTS “R” US

Issue 20.17

Cataracts are the most common cause of blurred vision over the age of 50. Although there is no medicine or diet to cure cataracts, surgical removal of the cataract and replacement with a permanent artificial lens implant can restore lost vision.
Cataracts cause visual symptoms only (Blurriness, hazy vision, difficulty with reading, poorer function in the dark, or increased glare from sunlight and headlights, etc.) Vision progressively worsens over a period of years or sometimes after only a few months.
Most cataracts result simply from the natural aging process of the human lens. Like gray hair, cataracts are not a disease. Everyone will get them provided they stick around long enough. Cataract surgery is the most common operation done in the United States with the average age of 70.
By way of background, the eye functions very much like a camera. Light enters through the cornea – the clear front “window” of the eye. In order to reach the back of the eye, it passes through the pupil, which is the hole in the iris. The color of our eyes (blue, brown, green, hazel) is really the color of the iris seen through the transparent cornea.
Immediately behind the pupil is the natural lens (where a cataract forms). Just as a camera lens focuses onto film at the back of the camera, the human lens focuses light onto the retina, the thin layer of tissue lining the back of the eye. Like camera film, the retina forms the “picture” which is then relayed to the brain along the optic nerve.
When the human lens becomes cloudy or hazy enough to interfere with vision, it is called a cataract. Changing glasses will not help the blur that is caused by a cataract.
Some people mistakenly believe that having cataract surgery will enable them to see perfectly without glasses. Having the eye’s natural cataract-clouded lens removed and replaced with a clear delicately engineered artificial lens implant should certainly improve your vision. However, the conventional artificial lens is a single, fixed focus lens. It cannot provide both distance focus and near focus without glasses. Latest technology “premium” lenses (the subject of a future discussion) have helped us inch much closer to glasses independence (the holy grail of cataract surgery), but even then, glasses may be necessary for some activities.
The decision to have cataracts removed is elective. Because cataracts do not harm other parts of the eye, nothing needs to be done if you are not significantly bothered by symptoms. At the same time as cataracts only go the one direction… worse, there is no advantage in delaying treatment once cataracts become visually significant. At that point to wait is to kick a can down the road potentially to a time when you might do a poorer job of “bouncing back”.
In conclusion, cataracts are coming for all of us. Luckily the present and future state of treatment is bright. These are indeed the “good old days” of cataract surgery.
Richens Eye Center is a multi-specialty vision care center with state of the art technology available to provide you with the best treatment plans available. We have excellent, highly trained optometrists and ophthalmologists, both accepting new patients. If you would like to schedule your annual eye exam or are experiencing any of the symptoms above, please call 435.216.1226 or for more information visit www.richenseye.com.

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