Your eye has a clear lens through which light passes, allowing you to see. When the lens loses its transparency, the cloudy tissue that develops is known as a cataract.
Cataracts cause progressive, painless loss of vision. The lens clouds naturally as we age, so people over the age of 65 usually see a gradual reduction of vision. No one is exactly sure what causes cataracts. In younger people, they can result from an injury, certain medications, or illnesses such as diabetes. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light may also play a role in the formation of cataracts. Studies have also shown that people who smoke cigarettes have a higher risk of developing cataracts than non-smokers.
Although cataracts usually develop without apparent pain, some indications that a cataract may be forming are:
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Double vision
- Poor vision in bright light
- Seeing halos around lights
- Yellowish tinged vision
- Night vision difficulty
If visual impairment interferes with your ability to read, work, or do the things you enjoy, then you will want to consider cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is relatively painless and is one of the most frequently performed procedures. It has a very high success rate, with more than 90 percent of cataract surgery patients able to regain useful vision.
Intraocular lenses, or IOLs, are the artificial lenses that replace the eye’s natural lens when it is removed during cataract surgery. IOLs have been around since the mid-1960s, though the first FDA approval occurred in 1981. Before that, if you had cataracts removed, you had to wear very thick eyeglasses or special contact lenses to see afterward, since the natural lens that had been removed wasn’t replaced with anything.
Until recently, every lens implant acted simply like a fixed-focus lens, allowing a person to see well far or near but not both. Most of the time, people who receive these simple implants need reading glasses for near work.
New Premium lens implants, including the Crystalens®, ReZoom®, ReSTOR®, and Tecnis® Multifocal lenses, can now provide both reading and distance vision without glasses for people undergoing cataract or refractive lens implant surgery. Each of these implants works slightly different, and not all implants are right for all patients. Your eye surgeon will help you make an informed decision about which implant will provide a lifetime of clear vision for you.