Collom & Carney Eye Institute


When a doctor tells you that you have a cataract and it should be removed, it may be a frightening prospect.  However when you understand what a cataract is, how it will be removed and most of all, the priceless rewards cataract surgery can bring, you're likely to wish you'd had the procedure sooner.  After all, when the cataract is gone, your vision can be clearer, brighter and sharper than it's been for a long,  long time.  In the U.S., about 50% of those between the ages 65 and 74, and 70% of those over the age of 75 have a cataract.  It is not uncommon to have questions and concerns.  At Collom and Carney Eye Institute, we strive to answer all of your questions in order to help you better understand what a cataract is, how it will be removed, and the rewards that cataract surgery can bring.

Today's cataract surgery isn't just the end of clouded vision.  It's the beginning of something wonderful.
A clear, normal-vision image. The "clouded" image of a cataract.


 What is a Cataract?
Simply put, a cataract is a "clouding" of the lens inside the eye.  A cataract can be compared to a window that is frosted or yellowed.  Contrary to what some people believe, a cataract is not a "film" over the eye, and neither diet nor lasers will make it go away.  Cataracts damage vision by preventing the eye's lens from focusing properly.  The lens, located just behind the iris (the colored part of your eye), works like the lens of a camera, focusing lights, colors, and shapes on the retina.

 At birth, the lens is clear made mostly of protein and water.  With aging, the lens starts to become clouded, and light and images get scattered and distorted.  Certain diseases, eye injuries, or even some medications can cloud this human lens.  But in 90% of cases, the natural aging process causes clouding.  In fact, most people begin developing cataracts in their early 60's, sometimes earlier.


A cataract can be the reason sharp images become blurred, and seeing things at night is more difficult.  For instance, oncoming headlights may seem to temporarily blind the person developing cataracts.  It may be why the eyeglasses or contact lenses that used to help with reading or everyday visual tasks don't seem to be working anymore.  Common symptoms of cataracts are:


- Glare or sensitivity to light

- Progressively poor night vision

- Haloes around lights at night

- Loss of depth perception

- Frequent changes in eye glass prescriptions

- Brighter light needed to read


Symptoms depend on the cataract's location in the lens and the amount of clouding.  Cataracts are painless and often progress slowly.  Many years may pass before symptoms are experienced. 


Cataracts are classified as one of three types: A nuclear cataract is due to natural aging changes.  This cataract forms in the nucleus, the center of the lens, and is most commonly seen as it forms. A cortical cataract, which forms in the lens cortex, gradually extends its spokes from the outside of the lens to the center.  Many diabetics develop cortical cataracts. A subcapsular cataract begins at the back of the lens.  People with diabetes, high farsightedness, and retinitis pigmentosa or those taking high doses of steroids may develop a subcapsular cataract.

 Unfortunately, cataracts can't be prevented.  The best way to treat a cataract is to remove the old, clouded lens and replace it with a permanent intraocular lens implant (IOL).  This can restore vision and in may ways, significantly improve the quality of life.  The time to have cataracts removed is when the quality of vision begins to put limits on activities and enjoyment of life.



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