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As We Age
The lens of our eye gradually changes with the years. The arrangement of protein and water changes so that some of the protein clumps up together, creating a slight blockage to the light rays. This is a cataract, and cataracts start small, growing very slowly causing the light rays to scatter as they pass through it. This makes them unable to focus on the retina, and we experience blurriness and over-brightness. If left untreated for long enough, the cataract can extend throughout the lens, causing loss of vision.
Three kinds of cataracts
- Nuclear cataracts – begin to form in the center of the lens, spreading outwards, caused by aging of the lens
- Cortical cataracts – begin to form at the edge of the lens and extends inwards, often caused by diabetes
- Subcapsular cataracts – begin to form at the back of the lens, and most often diagnosed in diabetics, people on high doses of steroids, those with retinitis pigmentosa, or with severe farsightedness.
Causes of cataracts
Research is ongoing as to the causes of cataracts. We don’t know yet why aging should cause a cataract to form or what other factors might contribute.
- Some studies have pointed to ultraviolet light, so that some eye doctors suggest we wear sunglasses and a shady hat to protect our eyes
- Other studies suggest cosmic radiation as a contributing cause, as it seems that airline pilots more often develop cataracts
- People with diabetes experience eye changes caused by impaired blood circulation, which are better understood. But they also more often get cataracts, as do people on steroids, tranquilizers and diuretics, for various medical conditions. It’s unknown as yet whether the medical conditions or the drugs are contributing more to cataracts.
- Other studies have pointed to:
- Excess salt
- Heavy use of alcohol
Symptoms of cataracts
- Blurriness or cloudiness
- Diminished brightness of color
- Glare from light sources, especially at night
The symptoms slowly increase over time. But deteriorating vision is need not be an accompaniment to aging. A highly trained LASIK surgeon like Dr. Khanna in Orange Country, California will be able to determine which type of cataract you have and advise you about cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery is the most often-performed surgery in the U.S. and almost all people who have it done achieve excellent vision. It’s an outpatient procedure.
- Your eye surgeon will examine your eyes to determine the right power for the intraocular lens (IOL) he’ll implant for you. The IOL is made of very lightweight plastic.
- A local anesthetic is given.
- Using a microscope, Dr. Khanna makes a tiny incision.
- Ultrasound may be used to first break up the natural lens so it can be removed more easily, or sometimes it’s removed as is. The lens’s rear membrane (posterior capsule) is left intact.
- The IOL is gently inserted and the incision closed. Dissolvable stitches may be used.
- Afterwards, Dr. Khanna will give you an eye shield and you can go home the same day.
In some cases, the posterior capsule becomes cloudy after cataract surgery. This makes your vision blurry again, but it can be treated with a laser. Dr. Khanna makes a small opening in the capsule to allow light to reach the retina as it should.
In very few cases are there any complications. Most people can see much more clearly, and are very pleased, although some may still need glasses.
If you would like to learn more about cataracts and cataract surgery, please contact Dr. Khanna at the Institute of LASIK & Refractive Surgery in Orange County, California today to schedule your first appointment.