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400 Sierra College Drive, Suite A
Grass Valley, CA 95945
P: (530) 272-3411 | F: (530) 272-3474
Sierra Ambulatory
Surgery Center

About Cataracts

What is a Cataract?
A cataract is not an extra membrane or film that grows over or in the eye. Instead, a cataract is simply the slowly progressive clouding of the eyes natural lens. In fact, the term cataract in Latin means “waterfall” describing the white appearance of water when it flows; much like the white appearance in the pupil of very advanced cataracts. The lens begins to yellow in our late 40’s until it is cloudy enough to require surgery generally in our 60’s to 80’s. The clouding of the lens is not fully understood but it is thought to be related to electrolyte imbalances in the eye, UV exposure, metabolic imbalances, or trauma etc.

What are the symptoms of a cataract?
Vision loss from a cataract progresses so slowly that many patients adapt to the decrease in function and don’t even realize what they have lost. The eye slowly loses its ability to focus, becomes more near sighted, loses contrast sensitivity, loses the ability to see blues, and becomes blurry. The most common visual complaints from a cataract include decrease ability to drive at night because of glare and halos, inability to read writing on the TV, a need for more light while reading, and difficulty passing the DMV visual exam.

How common are cataracts?
Generally speaking, all patients will develop cataracts if they live long enough. It is estimated that one half of people in the United States over the age of 80 have cataracts or have had cataract surgery. In rare instances, cataracts can be congenital, related to Diabetes, associated with prolonged prednisone use, or be caused by inflammation or trauma.

What are the treatments for cataracts?
The only known treatment for cataracts is cataract surgery. The most advanced method for removing cataracts is a technique called Phacoemulcification. This technique involves making two small incisions using very sharp and small blades. The eye is inflated using a thick clear substance called a viscoelastic. Since the lens is surrounded by a capsular bag that does not cloud as part of the cataract, the capsule can be opened using a cystitome needle. The hardened lens is removed using a hand piece that emulsifies (liquefies) the lens using ultrasound energy and aspirates out the small pieces. The empty bag is now inflated with viscoelastic, and the IOL (intraocular lens) is implanted into the eye to obtain clear focus. New IOL technology can focus the eye at distance or near, eliminate nighttime glare caused by spherical aberration, decrease astigmatism, and even allow the patient to enhance the ability to focus at distance and near without glasses. Modern cataract surgery is a 15-20 minute outpatient surgery that usually allows the patients to resume visual and physical activities within 1-3 days after surgery. Ask your eye surgeon about these exciting new “Premium IOL’s (intraocular lenses)”.

Is cataract surgery dangerous?
Cataract surgery is a very safe surgery. In fact, the chance of developing a serious complication is very small. However, any complication encountered in cataract surgery has the potential to permanently reduce the vision. Complications associated with cataract surgery are not limited to but include endophthalmitits, macular edema, retinal detachment, double vision, and bleeding.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.