Over time, as people age, the lens inside of their eyes can gradually become opaque. These discolorations are often unnoticed at first, as they are painless and happen over a period of many years. As the lens becomes less transparent, vision will become blurred and is often substantially worse in bright sunlight. If left uncorrected, cataracts will become visible to the naked eye and eventually lead to blindness. Fortunately, correcting cataracts has become a routine medical procedure with minimal health risks associated with it.
Despite advances in medical technology, doctors are still uncertain what causes most cataracts. Factors that may be associated with cataract formation are excessive exposure to sunlight, cigarette smoking and poor dietary choices, but these are only theories. While most cataracts are discovered in the elderly, it is possible for cataracts to develop at any age. However, when cataracts are diagnosed in younger people, it is generally because of illnesses, injuries or as an unusual reaction to some medications.
For most people, the first symptom of cataracts that they notice is blurred vision. This is often compared to wearing dirty or scratched glasses. Eventually, if left untreated, the color of the lens changes. The clouding begins as a faint grey and gradually turns yellowish, affecting the way that the patient perceives colors.
If the patient is not ready to consider surgical treatment, they can wear tinted lenses to neutralize the yellowish discoloration, but it will not work for the long run. Eventually, if left untreated, the vision will continue to deteriorate until the patient is unable to see. At this point, cataract surgery is the only remaining option to save the vision.
Cataract surgery shapes the cornea of the eye, altering the path that light travels once it enters the eye. The procedure is fairly quick and simple if laser technology is used. The area of the face surrounding the eye is cleaned and draped to prepare for surgery. Some patients elect to take mild sedatives to alleviate any anxiety. Potent eye drops numb the eye thoroughly, making any injections completely unnecessary. Avoiding needles will reduce the pain of recovery and helps patients feel less afraid.
First, the surgeon makes small cuts in the edges of the cornea. An opening in the membranes is created. A probe, using ultrasonic technology, is inserted into the opening. The sound waves, well beyond the audible spectrum for human beings, disintegrate the damaged lens. These fragments of cloudy tissue are removed with a small suctioning tool.
After the detritus has been cleaned out of the way, a replacement lens is placed within the opening between the eye’s membranes. It is even possible to use a man-made lens that is able to reduce the need for or even eliminate corrective lenses.
The eye is able to heal completely without any stitches. Again, not having to suture will help avoid postoperative pain and speed up the recovery. The complete procedure will be over in a matter of minutes. Expect to wait two to three hours in the office for observation before being released, though.
The best part about cataract surgery is that it can be performed at any time. If it is more convenient to wait until a later date, there is no risk associated with delaying the procedure. Conversely, if corrected vision is a high priority, there is no reason to wait. The ideal time to perform Laser cataract surgery is when the patient is comfortable with the decision and ready to proceed.