Cataracts are the leading cause of reversible vision loss for people 55 and older. What causes cataracts (hint: are you wearing your sunglasses?) and how can they be treated? Eye surgeon Michelle J. Muench, MD explains.
A cataract is cloudy lens inside the eye (not on the surface). Cataracts are common; they’ll affect most of us as we age. They’re the leading cause of reversible visual loss in people 55 and older . . . and they’re highly treatable.
What causes cataracts?
- Family history
- Eye injuries
- Certain diseases (diabetes)
- Certain medications (steroids)
- Previous eye surgery
- Long-term unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation (sunlight)
What are the symptoms?
- Blurred vision – like grease on a camera lens
- Glare – noticeable at night if you see halos or “snowflakes” around car headlights
- Poor night vision
- Double vision in one eye
- Fading or yellowing of colors
How fast do cataracts develop?
- Most age-related cataracts progress gradually over years
- Pace varies by individual; it’s not possible to predict
- Pace may vary between your two eyes
- Cataracts that aren’t age-related, especially if associated with an injury, may develop very rapidly
How are cataracts treated?
- Some cataracts cause nearsightedness; you may benefit from change in eyeglasses
- Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract. (No medications, eye drops, diet or supplementation have been shown to remove cataracts)
When should surgery be done?
When a decrease in your vision prohibits you from doing the things you want or need to do to enjoy life
- Can I do the things I like to do to enjoy life, like read, watch TV, sew, hike, play cards?
- Is the glare from the sun or headlights at night preventing me from driving?Can I see well enough to do my best at work?
- Can I do the things I need to do at home, like cook, clean, take medication?
- Am I afraid I will bump into things or fall?
- Is my cataract causing me to be less independent than I would like?
- Does my eyesight bother me a lot?
How is surgery done?
- Outpatient at Northfield Hospital
- Local anesthetic
- A small incision is made into the eye under the microscop
- Micro-instruments are used to break up the cloudy lens and remove it from the eye
- An artificial lens implant is placed in the eye
After surgery, a laser may be used if a film develops over the back of the artificial implant and causes blurred vision. This is fairly common, and can happen over several months or years. The laser is used to make a clear opening in the center of the membrane and remove the cloudy film. This is a painless, outpatient procedure that’s done at the Surgery Center at Northfield Hospital.
To make an appointment with Dr. Muench, call Northfield Eye Physicians & Surgeons at (507) 645-9202.