Many body parts begin to change as you age, and your eyes are no exception. One of the most common age-related eye changes is the development of cataracts. Although cataracts do not occur exclusively in older adults, they affect approximately half of all Americans by age 80.

What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded. The lens is a flexible, clear structure of the eye that changes shape to reflect light onto the retina. This allows your eye to focus light rays, transforming visual signals into a clear, sharp image.

As you get older, the tissue forming the lens grows less flexible, thicker, and less transparent. Slight degeneration of the tissue causes cloudy areas to form. As light passes through the lens, these cloudy areas scatter the rays and cause visual distortions. Many people report that having cataracts is like looking through a foggy windshield, as everything looks clouded. This can cause difficulties when driving, reading, and performing other everyday activities.

Age-related cataracts are the most common, but other types may also develop. Cataracts are associated with eye injuries, exposure to radiation, smoking, diabetes, steroid use, and surgery for other eye conditions. Cataracts can also be congenital, causing some babies to be born with cataracts.

Diagnosis of Cataracts

Checking for cataracts is a routine part of your annual vision exam. Your eye care provider will test your visual acuity using an eye chart to determine if you have any visual impairment. The eye doctor may also use a bright light to view your cornea, lens, and iris to note any changes to their anatomy. Small areas of clouding are visible when performing this test. Your eye care provider may also dilate your eyes and examine your lens for signs of cataracts.

Treatment Options

In their early stages, cataracts may cause only minor visual impairment. Using brighter lights for reading or getting an anti-glare coating on your glasses for night driving may be adequate treatments in the early stages. As cataracts grow, however, they can severely impair vision. Your doctor may recommend cataract surgery, in which the clouded lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Like all surgeries, cataract surgery carries some risk of infection or bleeding; however, it is considered a very safe surgery that is routinely performed worldwide.

Clouded vision due to cataracts can be very impairing, so it is important to monitor your eye health. An annual optometry exam will detect changes to your lens that may be early indicators of cataract development.


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Cataract Diagnosis & Management

Cataracts will eventually affect a majority of people at some point in their lifetime. Our Medina optometrists encourage regular eye exams for early detection and treatment. We understand you may have many questions, so here is some important information you should know regarding cataracts. We offer co-management services for all of our patients!

What is a Cataract?

A cataract is a natural age related change that occurs in the lens that is located inside the eye behind the iris, the colored part of the eye. Normally, a clear lens focuses light on the retina, which sends a clear image back to the brain. When the lens is clouded by a cataract, light is scattered and the brain is no longer receiving a clear image, causing vision problems. This clouding is caused by physiological changes to the properties of the lens. When the cataracts are bothersome enough to the patient, it is time to have a conversation about surgery to remove that cloudy lens and replace it with a clear one.

What causes Cataracts?

Most cataracts are due to age but there are a number of other factors and/or agents that can contribute to cataract formation. These include diabetes mellitus, certain pharmaceutical drugs such as corticosteroids, and even ultraviolet radiation. On rare occasion cataracts are present at birth or can be quickly induced due to eye injury.

How is a Cataract diagnosed?

At the initial examination with your optometrist, you will go through a complete health history as well as provide a comprehensive list of medications for us to review. Visual acuity with be measured and a refraction will be perform to determine what your best corrected vision is with or without glasses, and to what extent a cataract may be limiting clear vision. A full dilation is necessary to evaluate the entire lens and properly grade the severity of the cataract. Evaluation of the retina is also important and will be performed to rule out any pathological inhibitors that could possibly deter you from surgery. We will talk extensively about your current quality of life and determine if cataract surgery is something for you to consider. After all testing has concluded and you have been identified as a cataract surgery candidate, we will talk through what the day of surgery is going to look like.

How is a Cataract treated?

After we refer you to see the surgeon, you will most likely be seen for a consultation by the ophthalmologist before you go in for the surgery. They will be doing a couple extra tests and measurements that day to confirm that you are ready. They will also go through the various types of intraocular lens implants that are available for you to choose. The surgery will not take place on the same day as the consultation. Cataract surgery is performed one eye at a time, usually a couple ofweeks apart from each other. Be prepared to have a daily eye drop regimen that starts a few days before surgery and last up to a month after surgery, although some new procedures require less drops than ever before. On the day of surgery make sure you bring someone with you, this is an outpatient surgery, but your eyes may feel a little irritated and having someone to drive you home will be necessary. After the surgery is completed you will either come back to see us at Complete Eye Care the next day or you may follow up with the ophthalmologist for that 1 day follow up. You will then be directed back to us, if you haven’t already, for an additional 1 week and 1 month follow up appointment. The goal of cataract surgery is to bring clarity back into your world and that may or may not require eye glasses. We will make that determination around the 1 month appointment to allow ample time for healing of the eyes before prescribing glasses.