Most people have heard about this eye condition. When the lens inside the eye becomes significantly hazy it is referred to as a cataract. The lens is a lentil shaped structure that is found inside the eye, behind the iris – the coloured part of the eye. The human lens is about 1 cm in diameter. Most cataracts occur with age but there can be other causes such as trauma or medications.
More details on cataracts can be found here: Cataracts | The Canadian Association of Optometrists (including tips on reducing risk of cataract development, different languages available including French and Ojibwe) or here Cataracts | Eye Health | See the Possibilities (includes risk factors)
Some types of cataracts will not affect vision significantly. Many age-related cataracts will eventually cause enough blur such that treatment is warranted. Lens changes may also affect the eyeglass prescription. In some cases an updated prescription will improve vision significantly and cataract surgery can be deferred. Sunglasses can also be helpful outdoors during the day.
When surgical treatment is necessary a referral to an eye surgeon will be arranged. Cataract surgery involves making small incision through the cornea, the front “window” of the eye, then removing the front capsule of the lens and the cloudy part of the lens. The remainder of the lens capsule is left intact. Some surgical centres will perform these procedures, including the incision, with a laser. An intraocular lens implant will be placed through the incision into the lens capsule.
Details about cataract surgery can be found here: Cataract Surgery Articles (allaboutvision.com)
By taking measurements of the eye prior to surgery the power of the intraocular lens implant can be determined. Most people will prefer good distance vision for their post-surgical outcome and then use glasses for reading or computer use. Technology has allowed for a number of intraocular lens designs, sometimes referred to as “premium lenses” that will minimize the subsequent need for glasses. Toric intraocular lenses are a consideration if there are high levels of astigmatism. Some surgeons offer multifocal lenses that will enhance near vision without reading glasses. However, there can be tradeoffs in the quality of vision such as increased glare at night. It is important to understand the benefits as well as the drawbacks of multifocal intraocular lenses.
More information in intraocular lenses can be found here Intraocular Lens (IOL) Implants | HealthLink BC or here Intraocular Cataract Lenses (IOLs): Premium | Aspheric | Toric (allaboutvision.com)
With age-related cataracts, surgery is usually required for both eyes and typically the eye with the most cataract development is treated first followed by the second eye in about a couple of weeks. It can be a visually awkward time when waiting for cataract surgery to be done on the second eye or while waiting to see the optometrist after both surgeries have been done. Previous glasses may no longer work very well. Your optometrist may be able to make a recommendation that will minimize the challenges during this time.
Sometimes, months to years later, the back capsule of the lens will become hazy known as posterior capsular opacification. This can be treated using a laser. No incision is required.
To assess your eye health please call Thunder Bay Eye Care to book an appointment for an eye examination.