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Am I going to be at risk for cataracts? Most people don't realize that cataracts occur as part of the normal aging process, so everyone is at risk eventually. It's not until the age of 75, that about 70 percent of people will begin to experience issues with cataracts.

What happens is the eyes lens slowly becomes less flexible, less transparent and thicker. Then areas of the lens become cloudy. Usually cataracts develop in both eyes at about the same time.

These factors increase the risk of developing cataracts:

Advanced age;
Diabetes;
Family history;
Smoking;
Previous eye injury or inflammation;
Prolonged steroid use (especially combined use of oral and inhaled steroids)
Extensive exposure to sunlight

If you have any of these risk factors, you should schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist, Dr. Clint Long M.D. He will be able to provide the proper dilated eye exam, review his findings, and offer a course of action for treatment appropriate to the results.

What Actually Causes Cataracts?

The design of the human eye is very much like that of a regular camera. Light rays are focused through the lens onto the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye that is similar to film. In a normal eye, light rays pass through a clear lens and are focused onto the retina. This produces a bright, clear image.

Over time, as the body ages, the lens continues to grow layers onto the existing surface. Over time the lens hardens and becomes cloudy, which often results in dull, cloudy or blurred vision. This condition, known as an age-related cataract, is normal and occurs eventually in most people.

If the clouding is mild or affects only a small area of the lens, your vision may be only slightly affected. If there is more clouding and it affects the entire lens, your vision could become severely limited.

How are cataracts treated?

If your vision is only slightly blurry, a change in your eyeglass prescription may help for a while. However, if you are still not able to see well enough to do the things you like or need to do after the change in eyeglass prescription, cataract surgery should be considered. Dr. Long is able to discuss this with you at length after your initial exam.

Cataract surgery is most often performed as an outpatient procedure and does not require an overnight stay. There are usually few restrictions, and you will be able to resume your normal activities almost immediately. Some exceptions apply depending on the nature of job activities, but Dr. Long will let you know if additional precautions are needed.

In general, a cataract before surgery has standard procedures; depending of course on the results of the examination. The length of your eye will be measured in what is called an A-scan, and the curve of your cornea will be measured in a technique called keratometry. These measurements help Dr. Long select the proper lens implant for your eye.

The most common procedure used for removing cataracts is called phacoemulsification. A small incision is made in the side of the cornea (the front part of your eye). Your Eye M.D. inserts a tiny instrument through the incision that uses high-frequency ultrasound to break up the center of the cloudy lens and suction it out. The lens is removed in one piece, using a technique called extracapsular extraction.

After the cloudy lens has been removed, the surgeon will replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL) implant made of plastic, silicone or acrylic. This new lens allows light to pass through and focus on the retina. The IOL becomes a permanent part of your eye.

In most cases, the IOL is inserted behind the iris, the colored part of your eye, and is called a posterior chamber lens. Sometimes, the IOL must be placed in front of the iris. This is called an anterior chamber lens. When the IOL is in place, the surgeon closes the incision. Stitches may or may not be used.

How are cataracts treated?

If your vision is only slightly blurry, a change in your eyeglass prescription may help for a while. However, if you are still not able to see well enough to do the things you like or need to do after the change in eyeglass prescription, cataract surgery should be considered.

Cataract surgery is often performed as an outpatient procedure and does not require an overnight stay. There are usually few restrictions, and you will be able to resume your normal activities almost immediately.

Before surgery, the length of your eye will be measured in what is called an A-scan, and the curve of your cornea will be measured in a technique called keratometry. These measurements help Dr. Long select the proper lens implant for your eye. With phacoemulsification, an ultrasound instrument breaks up the center of the cloudy lens and suctions it out. With phacoemulsification, an ultrasound instrument breaks up the center of the cloudy lens and suctions it out.

The most common procedure used for removing cataracts is called phacoemulsification. A small incision is made in the side of the cornea (the front part of your eye). Your Eye M.D. inserts a tiny instrument through the incision that uses high-frequency ultrasound to break up the center of the cloudy lens and suction it out. The lens is removed in one piece, using a technique called extracapsular extraction.

After the cloudy lens has been removed, the surgeon will replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL) implant made of plastic, silicone or acrylic. This new lens allows light to pass through and focus on the retina. The IOL becomes a permanent part of your eye. In most cases, the IOL is inserted behind the iris, the colored part of your eye, and is called a posterior chamber lens. Sometimes, the IOL must be placed in front of the iris. This is called an anterior chamber lens. When the IOL is in place, the surgeon closes the incision. Stitches may or may not be used.

In some cases, the part of the lens covering that supports the IOL (called the capsule) can become cloudy several months or years after the first cataract was removed. This is called an after cataract or secondary cataract. If this occurs and blurs your vision, your Eye M.D. will make an opening in the center of the cloudy capsule with a laser to allow light to pass through the lens properly again. This procedure, called a posterior capsulotomy, takes about five minutes in the doctor's office and requires no recovery period.

Woman reading book to her young grandson.If you are having cataract surgery, be sure to tell your doctor if you are currently or have ever used alpha-blocker medications such as Flomax, Uroxatral or Cadura. These medications affect the iris or pupil and can lead to complications during cataract surgery. You can still have a successful surgery if your surgeon knows that you have taken these drugs and appropriately adapts his or her surgical technique. You should also tell Dr. Long about any other sedative medications you are taking.

Also, if you plan to have cataract surgery and you have had LASIK or other laser refractive surgery, provide Dr. Long with the vision correction prescription you had before LASIK, if possible. This information will help him calculate the correct IOL prescription for you.

Most people who wear bifocals or reading glasses for near vision may still need to wear glasses after cataract surgery for reading, and, in some cases, even for distance. If you choose to have a multifocal or accommodative IOL, your dependence on glasses may be minimized or, in some cases, eliminated completely.

Each case for each individual is different. Dr. Long understands that you will need to have a clear picture of the condition of your eyes; and will be able to educate you on what is the correct treatment options for your condition at the time of the consultation.

If you have additional questions about cataracts, please give us a call right now and set up an appointment to discuss your concerns with Dr. Long.

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