Cataracts Frequently Asked Questions

What are Cataracts and what would I be noticing if I had them?

The term cataract refers to loss of clarity in the lens of the eye. The lens is located immediately behind the colored iris, and is visible through the pupil of the eye. A severe enough cataract may be seen as white or yellow haze seen through the patient's pupil. A cataract is not a covering over the outside surface of the eyeball. There are several different types of cataracts and several locations within the lens where they may grow. Because with a cataract the lens of the eye is no longer completely transparent, blurred vision will develop which glasses cannot correct. Blurred vision, coupled with glare symptoms, are the typical first complaints of the cataract sufferer. We frequently hear from our cataract patients that they see haloes and starburst around point sources of light at night, such as headlights, or around theater lights

Is there any non-surgical treatment to correct Cataracts?

NO. Some fraudulent and not FDA approved potions will occasionally be touted as doing this, but they do not work, and in some cases may harm the eye. Proteins in the lens have cross-linked their fibers at the sulfhydryl groups and have degenerated to form the cataract. This protein will remain cloudy until it is removed, While oral antioxidants, sun protection, and avoiding cigarette smoke, radiation, dehydration and trauma to the eye may help slow or prevent cataract development, once a cataract is present it will remain until surgically removed.

If I had cataracts taken out, would they come back?

Once a cataract is removed, the lens capsular membrane or bag is left in place to contain the new artificial lens implant. While the cataract will never grow back, the capsule itself may grow cloudy in time, even after a technically perfect surgery. If this occurs, a laser can be employed to correct this situation with no further invasive surgery.

If I have cataract surgery will I still have to use glasses afterward?

Sometimes. Traditional intraocular lenses do not provide the ability to focus inward. After surgery, even if the uncorrected distance vision comes out to be perfect, reading glasses would still be required for near vision. There are now several implant lenses that recently have become available at additional cost. These either move inside the eye to help focus inward or have "bifocal" optics built into them for near vision. These are available locally at our Eye Center.

The implanted lens can be calculated to correct nearsightedness or farsightedness but there is often some fore or aft movement of the lens as the eye heals after surgery which puts this slightly off. Furthermore, the lenses only come calibrated to the nearest .50 diopters of lens power. In spite of these factors, the implanted lens calculated with modern measurement equipment usually corrects nearsightedness or farsightedness quite well.

A typical modern intraocular lens does not correct astigmatism, which gives an oval component to the eye's optics. Some astigmatism-correcting lenses are available but must be aligned at a particular axis. These may have some problems with shifting after surgery in some persons. Surgeons may also elect to make cuts on the surface of the eye after cataract surgery to relax the astigmatism. These are often helpful but may only partially correct astigmatism. Therefore persons with significant pre-existing astigmatism may need corrective lenses after cataract surgery. Unlike the situation when a cataract is still present however, after successful surgery the lenses should be able correct the vision.