As you age past 60, you will more than likely develop cataracts. More than 50 percent of people do, and some develop them even younger than that. It is quite normal and very treatable with corrective surgery in one or both eyes, depending on where the cataracts develop.
The word cataract comes from Latin and Greek words for “waterfall” and “to wash down”, respectively. This is possibly because vision with cataracts is often described as if one is looking through a waterfall. As the eye ages, the area of the crystalline lens develops cloudy protein deposits that interfere with sight in varying degrees. Cataracts usually progress slowly and vision loss gradually increases with time if left untreated.
Some of the symptoms that cataracts are developing are: decreasing, blurred or double vision, difficulty seeing at night or seeing halos in bright light, difficulty with depth perception, seeing colors, and/or difficulty reading. The development of cataracts is sometimes unavoidable as it can be caused simply by age, or hereditary conditions, but it can also be caused by eye trauma, diabetes, long term use of some medications like oral steroids, ultraviolet radiation, and smoking.
If you are experiencing some of the symptoms of a cataract, you should visit your eye doctor so he or she can perform a contrast sensitivity test. This will determine the degree to which the cataract is affecting your vision and will determine how soon you should treat your cataract. Once a cataract starts altering your vision enough to affect everyday activities, it is probably time to treat it since it will only get worse. Currently the only medical treatment for cataracts is to have them surgically removed.
Surgically removing a cataract is usually done on an outpatient basis and involves making an incision into the capsule of the cataractous lens in order to remove the lens. A topical or local anesthetic will be applied, as well as dilating eye drops and/or a sedative, in order to make the operation painless. The doctor will choose to physically remove the cloudy lens, or to break it up using high frequency sound waves, and then extract the lens particles using suction. In either case, the lens is replaced with a flexible plastic lens that will remain permanently. These replacement lenses can be adjusted to correct other previous vision deficiencies as well.
Cataract surgery incisions are usually self-sealing and do not require sutures. When stitches are occasionally required for healing, they can be easily and painlessly removed in the office.