Cataracts

Cataract advances in Greensboro, NC

Sight is our most precious sense, enabling us to enjoy the beauty of the world, to see faces of the people we love, to drive a car, to read–indeed to enjoy the world in which we live. For centuries, developing cataracts doomed a person to blindness. But today giving up favorite activities and suffering through years of poor vision due to cataracts is no longer an inevitable part of the aging process.
Digby Eye Associates specializes in restoring sight to people whose vision has been impaired by cataracts. Since 1980, our surgeons have performed over 35,000 cataract surgeries. The techniques developed at Digby Eye Associates have helped set standards of excellence and have attracted patients from across the United States. This technical excellence, combined with warm, personal care, makes the cataract surgery experience at Digby Eye Associates truly unique.

What is a Cataract?

A cataract is a cloudiness that develops in the normally clear lens of the eye. A natural lens is referred to as a cataract when it has turned cloudy.

A cataract is not a growth or a film on the surface of the eye, but rather is defined as any opacity in the normally clear human lens.
The human lens is a transparent finely focusing element suspended behind the pupil of the eye. It is about the size of an ordinary pill and consists of a strong, transparent outer capsule filled with a transparent flexible gel. As the lens varies its thickness, it enables the eye to focus on both near and far objects.

When light enters the eye, it passes through the cornea (the eye’s clear front window) and then through the pupil and the lens to focus the light rays onto the retina at the back of the eye. The retina changes the light images into electrical impulses and sends them to the brain via the optic nerve. When the lens develops a cataract, light becomes distorted, scattered, and redirected, and is not focused clearly on the retina. Vision is reduced, and blindness can eventually result.

Everyone who lives a long life will develop cataracts. The cloudiness does not spread from one eye to the other, but cataracts will usually develop in both eyes at some time. Some cataracts mature slowly over a period of years, whereas others can form rapidly within a few months..

What Causes Cataracts to Develop?

Cataracts develop most often as part of the normal aging processes that take place in the natural lens. Throughout a person’s life, new optical fibers are slowly and continuously produced on the inside of the lens capsule. This causes the gel to become increasingly compressed and hardened over time. This natural hardening of the lens diminishes its ability to alter its shape for focusing on near objects, making reading glasses necessary in mid life. At a certain point in each eye, an associated cloudiness begins to develop as well. This hardening and clouding process continues until the lens is completely opaque and light can no longer enter the eye. A cataract, which forms in this way, as part of the natural aging process, is known as an age related cataract. Heredity seems to play a part in determining when a person will develop cataracts, just as it determines other factors such as the time hair begins to turn gray.

Sometimes an injury to the eye can cause a traumatic cataract to develop. When the eye is pierced or receives a strong blow, the lens is disturbed and may opacify. Besides injuries, there are other disruptive factors that can initiate a cataract formation earlier than normal. These include the use of certain drugs,(especially steroids), exposure to harmful chemicals or radiation, some eye diseases, and other physical conditions such as diabetes.

Some babies are born with congenital cataracts. In these cases, prenatal factors interrupted the normal development of a clear lens. Fortunately, modern microsurgery can usually give these infants the same clear vision enjoyed by adults after cataract surgery.

Symptoms of a Developing Cataract

Cataracts vary in their development from person to person, so the symptoms also differ. Some common symptoms of a cataract are:
  • A gradual loss of color vision–objects appear yellowed;
  • Increasing haziness causing blurred and distorted vision;
  • The appearance of dark spots or shadows that seem to move when the eye moves;
  • An increasing need for more light to see clearly;
  • Glare at night–haloes or colored rings around lights;
  • A tendency to become more nearsighted because of the increasing density of the lens;
  • A stage where it is easier to see without glasses than with them–second sight;
  • Double vision, which persists even if only one eye is open;
  • In advanced stages, a change in the appearance of the pupil–it may appear white or yellow.
Most people with developing cataracts experience only some of these symptoms because they are related to the different ways cataracts form. Noticing these symptoms does not necessarily indicate the presence of a cataract, as some of these changes can also be symptoms of other problems. A person experiencing these visual problems should have a thorough eye exam so the underlying condition can be diagnosed. If you think you may have a cataract please call Digby Eye Associates at 336-230-1010 for an evaluation or contact us via e-mail from this site. You will be given a comprehensive eye examination to detect the presence of a cataract or any other condition which might be affecting vision and which could influence the outcome of cataract surgery.

The Solution to the Cataract Problem

There is no known way to prevent cataracts from developing or to make the cloudy lens clear after a cataract has developed. However, recent studies have shown that the development of cataracts may be delayed by following certain lifestyle practices, such as giving up smoking, exercising regularly, protecting the eyes from ultraviolet radiation, and eating fruits and vegetables frequently. Once cataracts have developed, they cannot be cured by medications, exercises, eye drops, wearing special glasses or contact lenses. Fortunately, advanced techniques in microsurgery offer a very real solution to the cataract problem. If there are no other serious problems with the eye, cataract surgery performed by a skilled surgeon can provide excellent vision in over 99% of cases. Degenerative problems with the retina or optic nerve may limit the potential for clear vision in certain cases, even when the cataract surgery has been successful. In the past, people with cataracts were told to wait until their cataracts had “ripened” or “matured”, meaning that they had to live through many months or even years of gradually deteriorating vision. This frustrating wait is no longer necessary, and people may have their cataracts removed as soon as the decreased vision starts to interfere with their lifestyle. Together, we consider your lifestyle and the new treatment options that are now available. After your cataract surgery would you rather need glasses for close, far, or computer vision? Or would you prefer to reduce or eliminate your need for glasses after cataract surgery?

Benefits of Cataract Surgery

There are numerous benefits of cataract surgery, many of which cannot be measured statistically. These include:
  • Improved Color Vision: Colors are brighter and more vivid after cataract surgery.
  • Greater Clarity of Vision: Vision is crisper and sharper after cataract surgery.
  • Improved Quality of Life: Studies have repeatedly shown that people enjoy improved quality of life after successful cataract surgery. Many people can resume driving, thereby gaining greater independence. Favorite activities such as reading, sewing, carpentry, baking or even using a computer are generally easier after cataract surgery. Even when retinal diseases or other problems prevent a total restoration of vision, the remaining vision is usually improved by a cataract surgery.
  • Greater Freedom From Corrective Lenses: With the advancement in technology for lens replacement, these new treatment options give you more choices to make based on your lifestyle. You will be able to decide if you would prefer to have glasses for close, far, or computer vision. Or would you prefer to reduce or eliminate the need for glasses after your surgery? You and your surgeon can determine what is best for you.

Risks of Cataract Surgery

A small percentage of people develop a condition known as secondary cataracts in the months or years after cataract surgery. In these cases, new cloudy cells gradually cover the back of the lens capsule, just as frost covers a window. Light cannot be focused clearly through these cloudy cells, and vision is once again obscured. People may fear that their cataracts have returned. Actually, it is not possible for a cataract to grow back completely, so the term “secondary cataract” is misleading.
Fortunately, secondary cataracts can be treated very easily. A quick, painless laser treatment makes a small opening in the back of the lens capsule, without disturbing the lens implant or any other tissues within the eye. Light can once again be focused on the retina and clear vision is restored.


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