Cataracts are a common occurrence in the eyes of older patients. Aging and disease processes can change the function of the lens over time.
Vision occurs when light is focused by the lens and displayed on the retina. The lens in a young, healthy eye has some elasticity and is clear. A cataract can occur when the lens can be come cloudy as people age. Incoming light is diffused through a cataract and is not sharply focused on the retina, resulting blurred or double vision.
Though nothing can be done to prevent cataracts, surgery is available to correct the condition. Cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure in the United States.
The patient remains awake during the procedure, with local anesthesia administered to temporarily paralyze the muscles of the eye and prevent it from moving.
An incision is made through the cornea and a miniature, jackhammer-like tool is inserted to break up the cataract. Once the cataract is removed, a new lens is inserted. This lens is known as an intraocular lens (IOL).
Cataract surgery usually takes about 20 minutes and requires minimal recovery time. In most cases patients are able to drive, read, and go back to work within two days.