Many people in their 50s, 60s and 70s realize their vision is changing without recognizing that cataracts may be the cause. Cataracts develop slowly and painlessly so that your vision and lifestyle can be affected without your realizing.
As cataracts become advanced, people often:
If you think you may be developing cataracts, talk with your doctor about treating cataracts.
Modern cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective medical procedures today. It helps about 3 million people each year in the U.S. alone, with an overall success rate of 98% or higher.
Two common reactions after cataract surgery are: "I can't believe how bright the colors are" and "I wish I'd done this sooner."
Cataract surgery can give you:
Modern cataract surgery is a routine procedure with extraordinary benefits. Not surprisingly, most patients are very satisfied after cataract surgery.
Most patients experience little or no pain and return to their normal activities the day after surgery. And now, thanks to advances in technology, cataract treatment can even correct other conditions, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia and reduce your dependence on glasses or contact lenses.
Cataract removal and lens replacement surgery typically takes 30 to 45 minutes. Most patients experience little or no pain or discomfort and do not see the procedure taking place.
These days, virtually all cataract surgeries performed in the U.S. remove the clouded natural lens using a technique called phacoemulsification. First the surgeon makes a tiny incision at or near the cornea. A very small ultrasound device then removes the cataract, and a new intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted. Because of the size and location of the incision, few (if any) stitches are needed, and the eye heals rapidly.
With phacoemulsification, more than 97% of patients are restored to their everyday activities with significantly improved vision and without any complications. Millions of people who once had cataracts now enjoy bright, clear, colorful vision again.
Learn more about the cataract surgery decisions you and your surgeon will make before your surgery.
Not sure what a particular term means? Click on words in bold to pull up the glossary tab.
Left untreated, cataracts will cause blindness. This process usually takes many years. Blindness from cataracts is usually reversible with cataract surgery. Cataract blindness is among the leading causes of blindness in the developing world.
Presbyopia and cataracts are separate conditions. However, both conditions occur slowly over time, so many people develop both conditions as they get older.
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by either irregularity in the curvature of the cornea or the lens of the eye. People with astigmatism generally have difficulty seeing fine details at all distances. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or toric IOLs.
Clouding of the eye's lens that blocks passage of light to the retina, resulting in impaired vision. Often a result of normal aging, cataracts form when protein clumps cloud areas of the eye's lens. As the cataract progresses, vision worsens and often requires surgical replacement of the damaged lens with an artificial one.
Clear, curved surface at the front of the eye through which light enters the eye. Along with the sclera (the white part of the eye), provides external protection for the eye. Often called the window of the eye. During many types of vision correction surgery, such as LASIK, the cornea is reshaped to reduce or eliminate the main types of refractive error - nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
Farsighted, farsightedness (or hyperopia)
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by too little curvature of the cornea or too little distance between the front of the eye and the retina at the back. Both structural defects cause light entering the eye to focus incorrectly on the retina, resulting in blurred close-up vision. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or multifocal or accommodative IOLs.
Intraocular lens (IOL)
Artificial lens made of plastic, silicone or acrylic. Designed to be implanted in the eye in place of or in front of the natural lens to improve focus and correct vision problems, such as cataracts and presbyopia.
Nearsighted, nearsightedness (or myopia)
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by either too much curvature of the cornea or too much distance between the front of the eye and the retina at the back. Both structural defects cause light entering the eye to focus incorrectly on the retina, resulting in blurred distance vision. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or multifocal or accommodative IOLs.
Also known as "small incision cataract surgery" or "phaco." Used in the majority of cataract surgeries performed today. Involves making a small incision on the side of the cornea and inserting a tiny probe that emits ultrasound waves to soften and break the lens of the eye into pieces, which are then suctioned out.
Also called age-related focus dysfunction. Common vision problem that develops naturally over time. Characterized by loss of the eye's ability to focus at close distances or on fine details. Treated with reading glasses, contact lenses, presbyopia laser vision correction (also called LASIK monovision) or presbyopia lens replacement surgery.
Ultrasound, ultrasonic energy
High frequency sound waves used during cataract surgery to break up the eye's natural lens so that it can be easily removed and replaced with an intraocular lens (artificial lens implanted in the eye in place of or in front of the natural lens to improve focus and correct vision problems).