What is a Cataract?
The eye functions somewhat like a camera. Inside the eye is a lens. When we are young, the lens is clear and works to focus light on the retina. A clear lens lets light pass without degrading the image. In this instance, we have clear, sharp vision. As we get older, the lens slowly becomes cloudy. This process can begin in our 30’s or 40’s, but doesn’t significantly affect our vision until our 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s. The medical term for a cloudy lens is a “cataract“. Cataracts form as a consequence of oxidation. When images you see pass through this cloudy lens, they are degraded and are seen as blurry images.
- Difficulty driving
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Difficulty reading or viewing a computer screen, phone, or tablet
- Colors appear dim and faded
- Frequent changes in glasses prescriptions
What is Presbyopia?
In the early stages of cataract formation, the lens may not be very cloudy, but it is becoming stiffer. This stiffening of the lens is called presbyopia. In an eye with presbyopia, the natural lens has difficulty focusing on intermediate and near objects. If your distance vision is still clear, you may only need over the counter reading glasses for presbyopia. If you are having difficulty at distance and near, you may need bifocals, trifocals, or progressive glasses. When glasses no longer improve your vision, your cataract may be "ripe" and ready for surgery.
- Losing your ability to read up close
- Cloudier or fuzzier vision at near
- Difficulty viewing a computer screen, a phone or tablet
- Needing reading glasses or biofocals
- Holding objects further away to read
Are There Non-Surgical Treatments for Cataracts?
Many studies have looked for ways to slow the progression of cataracts. Antioxidants and protecting the eyes from UV light with sunglasses have been investigated, but do not significantly slow or stop the formation of cataracts. Recently, Dr. Kang Zhang, an ophthalmologist at the University of California-San Diego, discovered an enzyme called lanosterol. This enzyme appears to clear cloudy lens cells in Petri dish studies, but is yet to be studied in humans. This research could lead to the development of an eyedrop that may slow or reverse the development of cataracts, but these studies are currently in their infancy.
What Determines If I Need Cataract Surgery vs. Glasses?
An examination by an ophthalmologist can help determine if you'll benefit from glasses or if you may need cataract surgery. We accept new patients and provide second opinions when necessary.