Cataract is a Greek term meaning “waterfall” stemming from “cataract” or “fall.” The lens in a human eye can be compared to a pool of clear water. It is transparent. When water goes over the waterfall, it becomes white, opaque and bubbly. Transparency is lost. A human eye with a mature cataract is shrouded by a cloudy, white cover. Cataracts are defined by any opacification or blockage in the path of light passing through the human lens.
Cataracts come in all forms, shapes and sizes with varying effects on vision. For instance, they usually occur bilaterally but this is not always the case. Eyes that have sustained some traumatic insult tend to develop cataracts sooner than an untouched eye. Cataracts can also be caused from a host of metabolic disturbances such as diabetes or sorbitol intolerance. Most commonly, however, cataracts are part of the normal aging process. Their formation can be visualized when describing degradation of plastic over time. You may remember vinyl covers on car seats. With sun exposure, eventually plastic yellows and cracks. This is due to depolymerization or breakdown of long chain polymers which make up plastics and maintain clarity. Opacity and yellowing result. The same event takes place in a human eye. The lens long chain polymers and collagens make it susceptible to UV damage and degradation. With deterioration, cracks between the various strands cause anatomical deficits. The lens becomes cloudy and yellow. Light is blocked in a defractive or white-like pattern.
Cataracts can develop from a myriad of causes. They can be genetic and occur regularly in some families or congenital, present at birth due to a mother's fever or illness during pregnancy. Congenital cataracts are found in the center of the human lens. Metabolic cataracts can occur in diabetes and in people who abuse alcohol and tobacco. These diseases are often associated with the early incidence of cataracts. Cataracts may be avoidable in the near future with the use of new, high tech drops which would limit the depolymerization and degeneration of the human lens tissue. Additionally, general health, the use of vitamins, maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle probably can also limit the progression of cataracts.
Patients who have cataracts often experience blurry vision and poorly discriminate color. The human lens, a clear and colorless structure, focuses light on the back of the eye and yellows during our lifetime. Vibrancy of color is decreased even though visual acuity may be 20/20. This discrepancy in color perception may be an indication for cataract surgery, especially if an individual’s livelihood depends on it. Removal of the human lens and replacing it with an appropriate implant can provide normal transmission of light. It is not uncommon for post cataract extraction patients to report that someone changed the color of their house or clothes. They cannot believe how bright the colors are in contrast to what they previously perceived.
When you see someone with blue hair it is often because the individual is suffering from yellowing of the human lens. A patient may visit the hairdresser to have their hair dyed because it looks yellow to them. The only way the hairdresser can get this individual to be comfortable with their appearance is by making the hair blue. With the addition of blue, the individual sees a more pleasing gray color through their yellow lenses.
You may notice that as people get older, they may have a propensity toward using green. As the human lens ages, yellows and greens look tan. An individual who has been extremely conservative in their color choices of browns and tans, suddenly is found to be using bright greens to get the subdued tan color they want. Once again, it would be wise to seek advice on color from younger eyes.
It is believed that the average age for onset of cataracts is 68 years but this varies enormously. I have performed cataract surgery on a 6 month old baby as well as a 100 year old man. Understanding your lens status is key. How are you seeing? What are your visual needs and activity level? Someone homebound who just reads and watches TV may not have the same visual requirements as a professional golfer. Cataract care must revolve around patients’ needs and lifestyles. Ignoring these considerations lead to unhappy patients. Successful visual outcomes occur only when a patient is fully evaluated.
Cataract surgery is the most frequently done operation in the United States’ Medicare aged population. The procedure is quick and rather easy from the patient’s standpoint but demands a skilled surgeon. Once a cataract is removed, the major focusing part of the eye is gone. Presently, the state-of-the-art treatment is replacement of the cataractous human lens with a plastic silicone or acrylic implant. It is placed in the position where the human lens was and focuses light with new clarity. A rigid implant focuses for distance. Accomodating implants allow the wearer to see at distance and near without correction with a fair degree of clarity. Some patients with this implant have noted halos at night and loss of contrast sensitivity.
Finally there is an implant that allows over 90% of patients to see distance, intermediate and near without correction. Although no technology works for everyone all the time, the vast majority of patients electing to receive the Crystalens combined with correction of astigmatism seem to do best. This technologically advanced lens is the only accommodating implant resembling a younger human lens when distance and near can be seen without bifocals. Many individuals report that being less dependent on glasses gives them a new outlook on life.
Dr. Siepser has helped many people achieve their visual best with the Crystalens, Florence Henderson benefited from this technological advance and you can too. Please call Siepser Laser Eyecare at 1-888-859-2020 today to schedule an evaluation.