Cataract FAQ

What is a cataract and how does it affect vision?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye, causing vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or corneal refractive surgery like LASIK.

In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the retina. That light is then changed into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. In order for the brain to receive a clear image, the lens must be clear. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred.

When a cataract is small, the cloudiness affects only a small part of the lens. In the beginning, you may not notice any changes in your vision. Over time, cataracts “grow”, so vision gradually gets worse and seeing becomes more difficult.

What are the symptoms of a cataract?

The most common symptoms of a cataract are:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Colors seem distorted or less vibrant
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Poor night vision
  • Double vision in one eye

Do I need to have my cataract removed right away?

Not necessarily. The early onset of cataracts may not affect your vision. However, as they grow larger and your vision becomes cloudier, cataract surgery can greatly improve your quality of life. If now isn’t the right time, frequent check-ups with our ophthalmologists/optometrists will help to monitor the progress of your cataract and determine when surgery is necessary to prevent blindness.

What causes cataracts?

Most cataracts are related to aging. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Other risk factors for cataract include:

  • Certain diseases (for example, diabetes)
  • Personal behavior (smoking, alcohol use, or steroid use)
  • The environment (prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight)

Are there different types of cataract?

Yes. Although most cataracts are related to aging, there are other types of cataract:

  • Secondary cataract. Cataracts can form after surgery for other eye problems, such as glaucoma. Cataracts also can develop in people who have other health problems, such as diabetes. Cataracts are sometimes linked to steroid use.
  • Traumatic cataract. Cataracts can develop after an eye injury, sometimes years later.
  • Congenital cataract. Some babies are born with cataracts or develop them in childhood, often in both eyes. These cataracts may be so small that they do not affect vision. If they do, the lenses may need to be removed.
  • Radiation cataract. Cataracts can develop after exposure to some types of radiation.

How is a cataract detected?

Cataract is detected through a comprehensive eye exam that includes:

  • Visual acuity test to measure how well you see at various distances.
  • Dilated eye exam to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems.

How is a cataract treated?

The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.

Is cataract surgery effective?

Cataract removal is one of the most common operations performed in the United States. It also is one of the safest and most effective types of surgery. In about 90 percent of cases, people who have cataract surgery have better vision afterward.

What are the risks of cataract surgery?

These problems can include infection, bleeding, inflammation (pain, redness, swelling), loss of vision, double vision, and high or low eye pressure. With prompt medical attention, these problems can usually be treated successfully.

How much does cataract surgery cost?

Medicare and most health insurance plans typically cover the cost of cataract surgery and standard (Monofocal) intraocular lenses as these are considered medical necessities. Panoptix and Vivity (or Active Lifestyle Lens) and Toric IOLs are not covered by commercial insurance or Medicare/Medicaid. The Eye Care Center of Northern Colorado offers payment options to help make the procedure accessible.

Does cataract surgery hurt?

Most of our patients don’t feel any pain during surgery. You’ll receive anesthesia through an IV for pain relief and to reduce anxiety. To minimize any mild discomfort after surgery, your doctor may prescribe pain medication or recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever.

What can I expect after cataract surgery?

Your doctor will provide a protective eye shield to wear the day of your procedure as well as while sleeping for the first few days. You will be given prescription eye drops to use for a month following the procedure. For the first week after surgery avoid strenuous activity, swimming, or anything that exposes your eye to dust or dirt. Also, avoid eye makeup for three days prior and one week after surgery.

Many patients experience vision improvement the day after cataract surgery; however, it may take a month or so for the full effect of improved vision. If you still require glasses after surgery, your eyeglass prescription may need to be updated.

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