For many people, cataracts are inevitable with the aging process, and there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get them. But do you know what cataracts actually are, or what causes them? Let’s demystify this common visual concern and review your options for laser cataract surgery (offered at our Frankfort, KY, office, Surgery Vision Center in Jeffersonville, IN, and our Brandenburg, KY, satellite office).
The lens of the human eye is made in part from proteins arranged in a specific pattern. Over time these proteins can rearrange themselves and adhere to each other, resulting in a cloudy quality on the lens surface and causing blurred vision. While cataracts come with aging, you can delay their onset with certain lifestyle changes. Let’s look at some of the factors that contribute to the development of cataracts, as well as what you can do to treat and prevent them.
Factors You Can’t Control
- Family history: You’re more likely to develop cataracts around the same age as your parents did.
- Myopia: Severe nearsightedness can encourage earlier development of cataracts.
- Eye trauma: A past eye trauma or surgery seems to be associated with cataract development.
Factors You Can Control
- Obesity: This condition itself, as well as its associated conditions (including diabetes and high blood pressure), are linked to premature cataract development. Eating a reasonable diet and keeping your weight down can help.
- Smoking: Smokers have an increased risk of developing cataracts, and there’s no good reason to maintain a cigarette habit. It’s never the wrong time to stop.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: An occasional tipple or social drinking is unlikely to speed up cataract development, but heavy, long-term drinking certainly can.
- Sun exposure: Making sunglasses a regular part of your wardrobe can slash your risk of early cataracts.
- Certain medications: Statins, corticosteroids, and hormone replacement therapy are all linked to cataracts. If you take any of these drugs and are worried about your cataract risk, talk to your prescribing physician before you discontinue any of your medications.
You can learn more about the causes of cataracts from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Cataract Treatment: Options for Your Lifestyle
Advancements in cataract surgery mean you have treatment options. Today’s most common cataract removal methods include:
- Small-incision cataract surgery: In this approach, the doctor uses a hand-held blade to make a very small incision in the eye through which the clouded lens is removed. The lens capsule is left behind, and an artificial lens is added.
- Extracapsular surgery: With this method, your surgeon uses laser technology to make precise incisions in the eye. The laser energy softens and breaks up the cataracts, which then are more easily removed through the incisions. The doctor then inserts an intraocular lens to replace the removed lens.
Here at Dr. Black’s Eye Associates, we exclusively use FDA-approved laser technology and advanced 3D imaging to create highly predictable results and improved vision.
Our eye surgeons perform cataract surgery using the FDA-approved LenSx laser system, an innovation based on the same femtosecond technology used during bladeless LASIK procedures. Instead of making incisions during cataract surgery using handheld blades, the surgeons use the computer-controlled laser, combined with 3D imaging, to create incisions with a precision that’s virtually unmatched.
The LenSx laser improves accuracy and shortens your healing time, as it softens and breaks up the cataracts and allows them to be removed more easily. After removing the cloudy lens fragments, your surgeon will insert a customized intraocular lens (IOL) that may reduce or eliminate the need for glasses. Additionally, our surgeons can use the LenSx laser to correct astigmatism with increased accuracy, making the results even more predictable. You can learn more about the procedure and its recovery in our related blog post.
We also offer a variety of premium intraocular lenses, also called “lifestyle lenses.” You can select the lens implant that best matches your specific condition, desired outcome, and lifestyle considerations. For some patients, these lenses can actually eliminate the need for eyeglasses after cataract surgery.
If you’ve been experiencing visual disturbances, but aren’t sure if they’re related to cataracts, take our cataract quiz to find out.