What is a Cataract?
When the lens in the back of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque, it is called a cataract. Cataracts can vary from extremely small areas of cloudiness to large areas, which may cause a significant decline in vision. Cataracts are usually caused from ageing, and on average occur in people over the age of 60. This condition can also be caused from trauma to the eye and from particular medications. Newborns can also develop congenital cataracts.
The reason why cataracts develop is due to proteins within the lens breaking down over time. This occurs naturally as we age. However, certain risk factors can speed up the progression of cataracts, such as too much UV exposure; cigarette smoking; and a poor diet. Genetics and diabetes can also play a role in development of this eye condition.
Although, cataract formation is inevitable, there is no certainty surgery will be required. Depending on the level of vision that is correctable and or a patient’s contentment with his or her vision, the cataract(s) may be left untouched. Certain precautions should be taken however, to slow down progression. It is important to use quality sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB sunlight exposure. A diet rich in antioxidants is vital; vitamins such as A, C, E, Zinc, Selenium, Lutein and Magnesium can all serve to aid in the development and degree of progression.
How are Cataracts Treated?
Depending on the severity of the cataract, there are different types of cataract surgeries available. The most common type of cataract surgery is called phacoemulsification. This is where a small incision is made on the side of the cornea and then a small thin rod, which produces ultrasonic vibrations, is inserted. This rod helps to break apart the lens in the back of the eye and sucks out fragments. A foldable implant is then inserted which helps clear vision.
If cataract surgery is deemed medically necessary, it will be covered by MSP. Almost always reading glasses are needed after this procedure. However, glasses for distance may or may not be required afterwards. The outcome depends on whether or not a residual astigmatism is left over after surgery.
Patients also have the option of having toric intraocular lenses implanted to help fully correct their distance vision. MSP does not cover this type of lens surgery. Reading glasses are always required after this type of implant.
Lastly, there are multifocal lenses, which correct for both distance and near vision. A common complaint patients have with this surgery is glare while driving at night. Also, astigmatism cannot be corrected for with this type of treatment. The ideal candidate therefore cannot have astigmatism, or will need to be prepared to wear glasses to help correct their vision for both near and far.
Patients also have the option of having corneal refractive surgery after their cataract surgery. However, this is considered an elective surgery and is not covered by MSP.
If you or a loved one has, or thinks they have developed cataracts please give us a call, we can help diagnose and treat this condition. Remember you do not have to settle for poor vision, come in today to ask how we can help!
–Dr. Balraj R. Sharma