Cataract surgery is one of the most common, if not the most common, outpatient surgery performed in the U.S. Cataracts consist of protein build-up and water that is naturally found in the lens. However, as we age, the proteins begin to clump together into a cloudy formation on the lens. A cataract clouds or fogs the usually clear lens of the eye; this results in cataracts being the most common source of blindness and vision loss in older individuals. And according to WebMD, over half of Americans over 65 have cataracts, and eventually receive surgery to remove them. Either or both eyes can be affected by cataracts; however, it cannot be passed on from one eye to the next.
Common Reasons For Cataracts
There are several reasons or causes for cataracts, and each reason is contingent upon the type of cataract that has formed. The 3 kinds of cataract formations are: Subcapsular- formed in the rear of the lens, Cortical- forming around the edges of the lens, and Nuclear- forming in the center of the lens. As we know, aging is the primary cause of cataracts. However, genetics can also play a role in cataract development. Additionally, diabetes and other medical conditions can cause cataracts as well. Lastly, they can also result from trauma and taking certain types of medication. Below are the details on some of the most common causes of cataracts:
Since ancient times, men saw countless cases of people growing old and losing their vision. In ancient Greece, a name was put to the clouding of the eyes- cataracts; and surgical breakthroughs for removing cataracts date back to 5th century B.C. in Egypt, 1748 in Paris, and the mid 1950’s. By that time, eye specialists understood that though there were many reasons for cataracts, aging was still the number one cause.
In healthy eyes, the external layer of the lens has the capacity to safeguard itself against light damage, and keeps our eyes moistened with water and essential nutrients, as well as oxygenized. In addition, the lens is designed to manufacture antioxidants to serve as protective substances.
When we reach ages of 50 years or more, the lens can begin to lose its function, and this can cause an accumulation of oxidized proteins and fat cells known as lipids to build up and cloud the lens. Additionally, aging can deplete antioxidants, causing a barrier to form between the core of the lens and the outer layers. This is where the development of cataracts begins.
Cataracts caused by genetics make up between 8.3 percent and 25 percent of congenital cataracts. Additionally, children born with cataracts could be a component of multisystem genetic disorders like Lowe syndrome or chromosome abnormalities. In others, it can be linked to additional findings related to genetics. Some of the genetic disorders or illnesses that can cause cataracts include- Down syndrome, galactosemia, homocystinuria, myotonic dystrophy, and Wilson’s disease. Cataracts could also be caused by congenital infections like rubella, herpes simplex, cytomegalic inclusion disease, syphilis, and toxoplasmosis.
Cataract is considered the main cause of blindness in diabetic patients. Some studies show that people who develop cataracts at a younger age, do so more often as it related to diabetes, compared to individuals not afflicted with this disease. Additionally, diabetic patients have an increased risk of complications following cataract surgery in comparison to non-diabetics. Prevention or treatment of the cataract condition with antioxidants and aldose-reductase inhibitors have been proven useful in the formation.
There are times when people can develop traumatic cataracts, which is directly associated with eye injuries. This kind of cataract could surface right after an injury or it could take months or years to develop. A cataract can be induced by a piercing ocular injury, if the lens capsule is punctured. Blunt ocular injury could result in a diffuse cataract that has a higher risk of zonular loss.
Taking Certain Medications
Despite how they are administered, cataracts have long been associated with the use of corticosteroids. However, when directly injected into the eye, triamcinolone, a steroid often used as a treatment for macular edema, almost always results in cataract. When the drug use is stopped, steroid-induced cataracts typically do not go away. Other categories of drugs linked to cataracts include the anti-cancer drug, busulfan, and the phenothiazine antipsychotics.
As it stands, there aren’t any proven studies that show that cataract formation can be prevented. However, there is a bit of promising data that shows that adopting a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk, or slow down the formation, of developing cataracts associated with certain medical conditions, medication reduction, and diet.
How Vision is Restored Through Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery involves the removal the cloudy lens, replacing it with an artificial lens. The majority of cataract surgeries are carried out with a method known as phacoemulsification. It is also known as “small incision cataract surgery.” The incision can be smaller since the harder middle section of the lens is vacuumed out after being broken up and/or liquefied.
After the administration of local anesthesia, the surgeon will make a small incision on the side of the cornea. A laser may be used to make the cut to optimize precision. An apparatus that produces ultrasound vibrations is then placed into the eye to break the cataract infected lens into tiny pieces. After which, suction is used to remove the fragments through the small opening in the eye.
After the removal of the cataract, the lens will be replaced with an artificial one known as an IOL or intraocular lens. The procedure is referred to as “intraocular lens implantation.” Essentially, the IOL is made out of transparent acrylic, silicone or plastic. The surgeon will choose an optical power to assist in restoring normal vision. Following cataract surgery, this often minimizes the dependence on eyeglasses or contact lenses. This lens needs no special care, and it is permanent.
Cataract surgery is carried out in an operating room as an outpatient procedure. Therefore, there is no requirement for an extended hospital stay. The surgery is typically completed in under an hour. Before cataract surgery gets underway, numbing drops are placed on the eye, and the patient is given a sedative to relax.
Cataract surgery is extremely safe. Approximately 98 percent of the cataract surgeries performed each year are carried out without any serious complications.
Ready to see it for yourself? Call Dr. Goosey today and schedule a consultation.