Cataracts commonly affect people of advanced age. The condition involves the clouding of the lens of the eye. The cloudy effect of the cataracts impairs the vision of the patient and may cause blindness. Still, the condition can be effectively treated through surgery. Here are a few questions and answers about cataracts:
Where does the cloudiness of a cataract come from?
The clouding that occurs on the lens of the eye from cataracts is due to an accumulation of protein. As the protein builds up, it reduces the ability of light to flow through the lens to the retina. Over time, the clouding becomes severe enough to negatively impact vision.
Do many people become blind from cataracts?
Cataracts are the most prevalent cause of blindness in the world.
How does cataract surgery work?
There are two common types of cataract surgery: phacoemulsification and standard extracapsular cataract extraction (ECCE).
During phacoemulsification, two tiny cuts are made in the eye between the cornea and the white of the eye. An opening is made in the lens capsule, and a small instrument, which is called a phaco probe, is introduced into the eye. Ultrasound waves are applied to help break the protein deposits of the cataracts into smaller pieces. The deposits are then suctioned from the eye. A lens implant may then be installed inside the capsule of the lens.
Extra Capsular Cataract Extraction
During an ECCE procedure, a cut is made in the eye where the cornea and the white of the eye meet. An additional incision is performed on the front of the lens capsule so that the lens and any other lens material can be removed. Once the lens is removed, a lens implant is placed inside the lens capsule, and the cut is surgically closed.
Does cataract surgery require anesthesia?
Cataract surgery is usually performed using numbing eye drops or other local anesthesia. However, a sedative may also be offered to help the patient relax during the procedure. Once local anesthesia is applied, the eye can be injected with additional numbing medication to prevent the eye from moving during the procedure and to numb optic nerves. Still, general anesthesia is sometimes used if a patient is extremely nervous about the treatment or if he or she is unable to follow the doctor's instructions during the surgery.
If you have more questions about an upcoming cataract surgery, schedule a consultation with your optometrist. He or she can provide complete details for your specific situation.