Most people above the age of 50 will eventually hear the optometrist say “you have cataracts”. In 2010, 80% of Americans over 80 years old had cataracts. By 2050, there will be approximately 50.2 million Americans with this eye problem. Cataracts are essentially the clouding of the eye’s lens, causing vision loss. The clouding is caused by protein clumping together and unfortunately, this loss in sight cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or LASIK. While this may sound scary, modern cataract surgery can usually fully restore vision loss. This surgery is safe and highly effective, with the vast majority of the procedures resulting in excellent visual outcomes.
Current Surgery Options and Steps
Cataract surgery works by removing the clouded lens inside the eye and switching it with an intraocular lens. The procedure is relatively simple – patients are not required to stay overnight in a hospital, it is done on an outpatient basis. Modern technology has allowed for easier and more precise surgery. Today, most surgeons will use a high-frequency ultrasound device to break the clouded lens into small pieces. The pieces are then extracted gently using suction. This surgery is performed with smaller incision than previously techniques, permitting faster healing. It has also lowered the risk of any surgical complications. After the cloudy lens has been removed, the surgeon will insert a clear intraocular lens into the same space your natural lens used to occupy. Next, the surgeon will end the surgery by closing the eye, and placing a protective shield over it to protect it during the early healing stages. Less commonly and also newly developed, there is also laser surgery available to remove the clouded lens.
The Future of Cataract Removal
Recently, researchers at the University of California San Diego found a molecule with could prevent cataracts by preventing the proteins from bonding together, which is what results in the cloudiness. Currently these drops are only being used in animals and have been to proven to reduce cloudiness in the lens. While the current drops do not work as well as surgery, the potential exists for these drops to eventually be used in humans.
According to Vu Optique, if you are over the age of 50 and have started to experience vision problems, it is important to visit an optometrist to determine whether you need glasses, or have cataracts. Your optometrist will be able to determine the best course of action for you.