Here’s an eye-opening statistic from the July issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource: By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.
A cataract occurs when the normally clear lens in the eye becomes cloudy, blurring vision and preventing the lens from focusing an image on the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. While cataracts don’t spread from one eye to another, both eyes are commonly affected.
The only effective treatment for a cataract is surgery to remove the clouded lens. Typically, it’s replaced with an artificial lens known as an intraocular lens. Made from clear plastic, acrylic or silicone, intraocular lenses become a permanent part of the eye.
Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgical procedures performed in the United States. In years past, it was often recommended that patients wait for a cataract to turn white before having it removed. Today, there are no set recommendations on the best time to remove a cataract. The standard is to have one cataract removed at a time, allowing the eye to heal prior to the second surgery.
Most cataracts don’t disturb vision in the early stages, but as the clouding progresses, a cataract can interfere with everyday life. After successful surgery, patients notice a vision improvement within days. Complete healing generally takes four to six weeks.
Regular eye exams remain the best way to detect cataracts early and monitor their progression. Adults of any age can develop a cataract, but age is the single greatest risk factor. For people over 65, an eye exam at least every other year is recommended.