Cataract Surgery Explained by an Ophthalmologist in St. George Utah

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Both Dr. Hendrix and Slade perform cataract surgery utilizing a unique technique that enhances the safety profile of the surgery and minimizes swelling and inflammation postoperatively. Make an appointment today to find out if you can benefit from cataract surgery. In the meantime, below is more information about cataracts and surgery.

An Ophthalmologist in St. George Utah Discusses Cataract Surgery

How Do I Know If I Need Cataract Surgery?

Cataracts affect more than 25 million Americans over the age of 40, and approximately 50% of the population over the age of 75. If you think these numbers seem high, consider the fact that they are only increasing. By seeking early treatment, those suffering from cataracts could significantly improve their quality of life. If you are seeking an ophthalmologist in St. George Utah that offers cataract surgery, read on to understand more about this life-altering condition and the options for improving your vision.

What Is a Cataract?

This is a question that many of you may be asking yourself. Although it is a word that we hear often, not many understand what the condition actually is.

A cataract generally refers to a clouding of the eye lens that affects vision.  What many don’t know is that this condition is often a part of the natural aging process. Cataracts occur as a result of built up protein in the lens of the eye. This is what gives the eye a cloudy look. This cloudy layer intercepts light as it tries to pass through the lens, causing loss of vision.

In order to understand how cataracts affect vision, one must first understand how the basic functionality of the eye works. The lens of an eye functions very similarly to that of a camera, by directing light to a single point, in this case the retina, for clear vision. Like the auto focus feature on a digital camera, properly functioning eye lenses can adjust for clarity whether you are looking at something close up or far away. However, if this direct pathway is disrupted or interfered with in any way, it can cause noticeable vision problems.  

Eye lenses are composed mostly of protein and water, and the way these proteins are arranged is what keeps the lens clear and allows light to properly pass through.  However, as we age, or as a result of other external factors, these proteins can be rearranged, or may begin to clump together. This is how a cataract starts. As these proteins clump together they interfere with the path that light needs to travel to get to the retina and produce a clear image, and so vision decreases.

Common Causes

There are a number of different ways in which cataracts can develop, but the most common cause is simply aging. In fact, more than half of all Americans over the age of 80 either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery.

Although no one knows exactly what causes cataracts to form, researchers have identified the following as some factors that may contribute:

                • Ultraviolet Radiation – This can result from prolonged, unprotected sun exposure, as well as exposure artificial sources such as tanning beds.
                • Diabetes – Those suffering from diabetes are 2-5 times more likely to develop cataracts than those without diabetes.
                • Hypertension – Although there is some disagreement among the community as to whether or not hypertension is a direct cause, there is evidence that it contributes.
                • Obesity – The reason for the link between cataracts and obesity is still unclear, but researchers agree that there is a connection.
                • Smoking – Some believe that smoking increases the risk of developing cataracts by reducing the levels of nutrients in the bloodstream required for proper lens maintenance.
                • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications – Use of corticosteroids elevates intra-ocular pressure, which can in turn increase the risk of developing cataracts.
                • Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol – Some researchers believe that taking a daily statin medication can increase the risk of developing cataracts by up to 27%.
                • Previous eye injury or inflammation – Known as a traumatic cataract, this type commonly forms as a result of blunt force or penetrating ocular trauma.
                • Previous eye surgery – Development of cataracts is a known side effect of laser eye surgery.
                • Hormone replacement therapy – The risk of developing cataracts is 14-18% higher among women taking estrogen, in comparison than those who have never received hormone replacement therapy
                • Significant alcohol consumption – Research conducted at Boston University suggests that consumption of more than 2 alcoholic beverages per day over a prolonged period of time increases the risk of developing cataracts.
                • High myopia – The early onset (prior to age 20) of moderate to high myopia is associated with posterior subcapsular cataract formation.
                • Family history – As with most medical conditions those with a family history of cataracts are more likely to develop them than those without.

Symptoms to Look For

Just as understanding the risk factors is an important part of protecting yourself against developing cataracts, knowing how to identify symptoms early is just as beneficial. Because cataracts form over time, the earlier you identify them, the better off you are. Here are some common symptoms to look for:

                • Cloudy or blurry vision – This is usually the first symptom to occur, and often the most difficult to recognize. Initially you may only experience cloudiness occasionally, and so you may be unaware of your progressive vision loss. This is because in the beginning states the cataract may only affect a small portion of your eye’s lens. However, as the cataract develops, it will cloud more and more of your lens, distorting the light that passes through, and eventually lead to more noticeable vision problems.
                • Faded or distorted colors – As cataracts develop your eye’s lens gradually changes color from its intended clear or transparent state, to taking on a brown or yellowish hue. This results in the same effect that looking through a pair of colored artificial lenses has: it distorts color perception, giving everything a brownish tint and making it difficult to distinguish between certain colors such as blue, brown, and black.
                • Light sensitivity – Bright light sources such as headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright, or have a halo around them. This is because the affected lens is preventing light from entering the eye as it should. Instead of following a usual path to the retina in the back of the eye, this light is instead scattered as it enters through the distorted lens, causing blurry vision similar to what a natural glare causes.
                • Poor night vision – Aside from over-sensitivity to light, difficulty in low-light conditions is another common symptom of those suffering from cataracts. This also relates back to interference in the way light enters the eye.
                • Double vision – This is another early symptom, and may actually go away as the cataract gets larger. Double vision, or seeing multiples of the same image through one eye is caused when your eyes don’t agree with the image they are sending to the brain. There are two types of double vision: binocular diplopia, and monocular diplopia. In the case of cataracts, monocular diplopia, or double vision in just one eye, is more common.
              • Progressive nearsightedness – This symptom is another that develops gradually throughout the formation of the cataract. As cataracts progress, sufferers will notice that although their distance vision is gradually decreasing, they may no longer need glasses for activities such as reading.

A Simple Solution

Thankfully cataracts are a fairly easy vision problem to correct if caught in time. If you are experiencing a combination of the symptoms above, and worry that you may be developing cataracts you should contact an ophthalmologist sooner rather than later. And if the diagnosis is that you do indeed have cataracts, the next step is deciding whether or not you want to have cataract surgery.

Thankfully the American Academy of Ophthalmology has a list of four simple questions to ask yourself if you are considering this surgery. These questions are designed to help you determine if you’re ready or not.

                1. The first question you should ask yourself is “Are your cataracts impacting your daily or occupational activities?” This is an important first question to ask. Vision is one of the senses we rely on most, and a sudden loss of vision can have devastating effects on day-to-day activities. If you find yourself struggling to make it through the day as a result of decreased vision, you may want to consider what it will take to repair the damage.
                2. The next question is “Are your cataracts affecting your ability to drive safely at night?” Due to some of the symptoms mentioned earlier, such as increased light sensitivity as well as decreased night vision, cataracts can make it extremely difficult to navigate the roads at night.  While this may seem like a minor problem, as it is fairly easy to avoid night driving if you have to, consider what you would do in case of an emergency. Would you feel comfortable driving at night if you had to, or is your night vision too impaired?
                3. Another important question is “Are your cataracts interfering with the outdoor activities you enjoy?” Quality of life is a very important thing to consider. Cataracts can have a significant effect on outdoor vision due to light-sensitivity and glare related problems. If you are unable to see well enough to enjoy going outside and doing the things you love to do, it may be time to look for a solution.
                4. The final question you should ask yourself is “Can you manage your cataracts in other ways?” There are temporary solutions to cataracts that can help in the beginning stages.  These include wearing tinted lenses, adapting the lighting and colors in your home to fit your needs, and other minor accommodations. If you can make these accommodations and still lie a quality life, you may want to consider putting off surgery until it is having a larger effect on your day-to-day living.

Loss of vision can be a severe and life-altering problem if not treated properly.  However, deciding to have surgery is also a big decision. Before you make any decisions it is important to understand the risks of both going through with the surgery, and of foregoing it.  

In the long run cataract surgery is a fairly simple procedure with a high success rate.  The procedure itself is one of the most common elective surgeries in the United States, and multiple studies have shown that having the surgery improves quality of life. Decreases in fall-related injuries, fewer car crashes, and a decreased mortality rate are other benefits that different studies show come as a result of this procedure.

If you would like an eye and cataract evaluation from an ophthalmologist in St. George Utah St. George Eye Center has appointments available with world-class doctors. They will advise and assist you in getting more information about cataracts, as well as the corrective surgery, so that you can make the best decision about how to take care of your eyesight.