Suddenly, the world is a little blurrier. You realize your vision has changed
and wonder if you need new glasses. However, you may have a cataract in
one or both eyes—approximately 30 million people are afflicted at
any given time. In fact, 2 to 3 million cataract surgeries are performed
in the U.S. each year.
spoke with ophthalmologist
Damien F. Goldberg, MD, of Wolstan & Goldberg Eye Associates of Torrance, to learn more about
cataracts and how to treat them.
What is a cataract?
A clouding of the natural lens of the eye that lies behind the pupil and
iris. The lens becomes opaque, yellow and thicker, resulting in impaired vision.
At what age do cataracts appear?
Cataracts appear at approximately age 72. However, patients as young as
29 who have other medical conditions can develop cataracts.
What causes cataracts?
Sun exposure, some diseases, certain medications, advancing age or even
a poor diet can raise your risk of developing cataracts.
What symptoms do patients with cataracts typically have?
Blurry vision, glare, difficulty reading at night or in dim light are some
of the symptoms.
Is there a particular set of symptoms that signal it’s time for surgery?
The DMV requires all drivers have 20/40 vision. If a patient finds their
vision doesn’t meet that criteria when they renew their driver’s
license, they will often proceed with surgery. Those who wish to delay
the procedure can try glasses or contacts in the interim.
Should cataracts be surgically removed soon after diagnosis, or is there
a waiting period?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for proceeding with cataract surgery—it’s
elective and rarely needs to be done immediately. Once the cataracts are
identified and the patient is complaining of symptoms, the procedure can
be scheduled at any time.
How is cataract surgery performed?
Traditionally, cataract surgery was performed manually by eye surgeons.
The procedure could be performed within 20 minutes, and results were very
effective. Now, for the first time, the precision we see in Lasik corrective
vision can be reproduced during cataract surgery. For those patients who
want the best possible vision outcome, the laser approach is appealing.
With the eye surgeon’s calculations, settings and guidance, the laser
performs many facets of the surgery with greater accuracy: making the
corneal incisions, opening up the delicate and thin lens capsule (capsulotomy)
and fragmenting the natural (but clouded) lens to remove it from the eye.
Once the clouded, natural lens is removed, a synthetic lens is placed.
What is a synthetic lens?
It’s an artificial lens replacing the patient’s natural lens.
It’s also known as an intraocular lens or IOL for short. Basic IOLs
are usually covered by insurance. These are monofocal, meaning they correct
vision at one zone of vision: distance vision, intermediate vision or
near vision. Now there are a variety of premium IOLs available that can
correct vision, restore a broad range of vision and give patients distance,
intermediate and near vision again.
Patients who choose these premium IOLs will have additional out-of-pocket
charges for these premium technologies. Discussing your options with your
surgeon is an important step in choosing which IOL is best for you.
What can we do to prevent developing cataracts?
Wearing sunglasses plus a balanced diet may help slow the process of developing
cataracts. Sometimes we think our vision is worsening when a dry eye condition
may be the cause. This condition can be improved with the use of artificial
tears recommended by your doctor.