Vision is probably the most important of all the five senses. Why? You use it the moment you wake up in the morning. It also helps us see and appreciate our surroundings and the people we work and interact with every day. Surely, everybody desires perfect eyesight. But how do we define perfect eyesight, and is there such a thing? Generally, people assume a 20/20 visual acuity as perfect. Visual acuity means how clear or how sharp our vision is. It is measured through an eye examination done in the clinic by the use of a Snellen chart. A Snellen chart or eye chart is composed of 11 lines of printed block letters which decreases in size to be read by a person using only one eye at a distance of 20 ft. or 6 meters. Corresponding to each line is a ratio at which the line of the letter is normally visible. The lowest line the person can decipher is his visual acuity. A 20/20 eyesight means that a person can read the line of letters clearly at a distance of 20 ft. or 6 meters. Most Ophtha doctors and optometrists refer to 20/20 visual acuity as normal eyesight.
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Due to aging and the frequent use of computers and other technologies, we lose our 20/20 eyesight. One of the most common eye conditions that lead to blurry vision and is considered the major cause of blindness is Cataract.
What is Cataract?
Cataract is the clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye, producing a blurry or foggy vision.
Cataracts are very common among older people. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, approximately 24.4 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts and approximately half of all Americans will have it by the age of 75.
Causes of Cataract
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Long-term use of corticosteroids
- Eye Injury, eye surgery, or radiation treatment
- Overexposure to sunlight
Signs and Symptoms of Cataract
- Blurry, cloudy, or hazy vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Double vision
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Halos around lights
- Being sensitive to light and glare
The only way to treat a cataract is through surgery. At an early stage when symptoms are still minimal, your doctor may prescribe you new glasses with stronger lenses. However, if the symptoms interfere with your daily routine, then it’s time to undergo Cataract Surgery. Fortunately, it is safe and effective and is done on an outpatient basis.
The Anatomy and Functions of the Eye
The sclera is the white outer coat of the eye that protects the eyeball. The pupil is the black dot or opening in front of the eye where light enters. The iris surrounds the pupil and it regulates the amount of light that enters the eye by changing its size. The cornea is a clear transparent membrane that acts as a window. It controls and focuses the entry of light. The clear lens at the back of the pupil functions like a camera lens. It focuses light into the retina which is located at the back of the eye. The retina is the innermost part of the eye made up of rods and cones which are special cells responsible for translating images into electrical impulses to the brain through the optic nerve. The electrical impulses are then interpreted by the brain and that’s how we see.
In Cataract Surgery, the surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial clear lens called intraocular or IOL lens which becomes a permanent part of the eye, producing normal eyesight.
Types of Cataracts
- Nuclear cataract – cataract at the center of the lens
- Cortical cataract – cataract at the edges of the lens
- Posterior Subscapular cataract- cataract at the back of the lens
How is Cataract Surgery done and can it restore 20/20 eyesight?
Preparation before the surgery includes an eye examination to be done by your ophthalmologist to determine the type of Intraocular or IOL lens to be used one week prior to surgery. You will also be given antibiotics and inflammatory eyedrops days before the procedure. You will be asked to stop any medications like aspirin or anti-coagulants which might predispose to bleeding. No food or water intake 12 hours prior to surgery. Abstinence from wine, liquor, and beer is required 24 hours before surgery. On the day of surgery, patients are not allowed to wear make-up, facial creams, or lotion. Simply wash with soap and water.
Cataract Surgery can be done with any of the following procedures:
After putting the patient under local anesthesia or numbing eye drops, minimal sedation will follow to relax and calm the patient. A small incision is done in front of the cornea and a thin Ultrasound probe is inserted to break down the cloudy lens and suction it out. Then it is replaced by a clear artificial lens called an Intraocular or IOL lens which becomes a permanent part of the eye for clear and sharp vision.
Extracapsular Cataract Surgery
This is usually performed in more advanced cases where a larger incision is required to remove the whole fragment of the lens and replace it with the Intraocular lens. This needs more sutures, and healing is slower.
Intracapsular Cataract Surgery
This requires an even larger incision than extracapsular. It removes the whole lens including the capsule. Cataract Surgery is quick and done in 20 to 30 minutes. It is safe and effective and restores your 20/20 eyesight provided that there are no other conditions associated with glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration.
The Do’s and Don’ts after Cataract Surgery
- Do not drive on the day after the surgery or get a clearance from the doctor when you will be allowed to drive.
- Don’t do strenuous activities until 4 weeks post-op.
- Refrain from bending over as this will put pressure on your eyes.
- Do not wear eye makeup for at least 4 weeks.
- Don’t rub your eyes after surgery.
- If possible, avoid sneezing or vomiting after surgery.
- Do not swim in hot tubs after surgery to avoid infection.
- Be careful from hitting objects or being exposed to dirt, dust, and pollen.
- Follow the instructions of your doctor regarding the application of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory eye drops to reduce inflammation and prevent infection.
- You can take your shower as usual but be careful for the water and shampoo to enter your eyes.
- You can watch TV, read, or use your computer for a while.
- Use your eye shield as instructed by your surgeon.
- Watch out for signs of bleeding, infection, vision loss, flashes of light, pain, and swelling despite pain medications. Call your doctor immediately once you experience any of these.
Complete healing in uncomplicated cases takes about 2-3 months. Overall, cataract surgery takes a short recovery time, is relatively safe, and is a painless procedure. It is all worth it knowing that with clear vision after the procedure, we will be able to see clearly the beautiful world around us. If you’re ready to get that 20/20 vision back, call Joseph Eye & Laser Center to schedule an appointment.