Updated: March 19, 2018
Cataracts mostly develop when aging or injury changes the tissue that makes up your eye's lens. The lens inside the eye works like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina for clear vision. It also adjusts the focus of eye to view things clearly both up close and far away.
Cataracts can be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist during a routine eye examination. Your medical history and symptoms will be reviewed and different eye examination can be performed. These include:
This test uses an eye chart to measure how well you can read a series of letters. Your eyes are tested one at a time, while the other eye is covered. Using a chart with progressively smaller letters, your eye doctor determines if you have 20/20 vision or if your vision shows signs of impairment.
Your eye doctor can examine the structures at the front of your eye under magnification using a slit lamp. The microscope is called a slit lamp because it uses an intense line of light to illuminate your cornea, iris, lens, and the space between your iris and cornea. The slit allows your doctor to view these structures in small sections, which makes it easier to detect any tiny abnormalities.
Drops in your eyes are put to dilate your pupils for a retinal examination. This makes it easier to examine the retina. The eye movements and pupillary responses, pressure inside the eyes and both front and back of the eyes are examined after the pupils have been dilated with drops. Your eye doctor can examine your lens for signs of a cataract using a slit lamp or a special device called an ophthalmoscope.
Surgical treatment is not required if cataracts causes few symptoms. However the only treatment for cataract is surgical removal of the cloudy lens if your prescription glasses can not clear your vision. Surgery is suggested if the patient loses the ability to perform necessary activities of everyday life, such as driving, reading, or looking at computer or video screens even with glasses.
In most cases, delaying cataract surgery will not cause long-term damage to your eye or make the surgery more difficult as it do not harm your eye. If you have other eye diseases that have caused visual loss such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, or optic nerve damage from glaucoma or other disease, cataract surgery may not improve the vision.
If both eyes have cataracts and surgery is agreed upon, the surgery on the second eye is generally planned at least a week after the first eye.
The lens of the eye is necessary to accurately focus light onto the retinal surface. Therefore removal of the cataract involves removal of the lens. Now a days cataract surgery combines removal of the lens and placement of a new artificial lens into the eye. Measurements for the size, shape, and power of this lens will be taken prior to the surgery so that the specific lens can be available for implantation at the time of surgery. The artificial lens, called an intraocular lens, is positioned in the same place as your natural lens which becomes a permanent part of your eye. For people with other eye problems, if an artificial lens can not be used, vision may be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses once the cataract is removed.
Cataract surgery is generally done on an outpatient basis. The surgery is generally safe, but it carries a risk of infection and bleeding. Cataract surgery increases the risk of retinal detachment. Healing generally occurs within eight weeks and discomfort will be there for a few days.