Your risk for developing cataracts increases as you get older. Most cataracts form gradually however, they can progress at different rates for everyone depending on the type of cataract and other risk factors. Conditions that increase a person’s risk for developing cataracts earlier are smoking, ultraviolet exposure, certain medical conditions like diabetes, and even some medications can lead to the formation of cataracts.
Cataracts can be diagnosed as part of your comprehensive eye exam, which is recommended once a year. As part of the exam, your visual acuity will be tested and a refraction will be performed in order to quantify how well you can see. Your eyes will also be dilated (widening of the pupil) so your ophthalmologist can assess all the structures within your eye.
In early stages, before the lens of your eye has become too cloudy, cataracts can be corrected by changing glasses prescription and using brighter lights to read. If you are still symptomatic after these adjustments, cataract surgery will likely be recommended. Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure where the cataract is replaced with a new clear lens. The majority of patients are awake during surgery, but a mild sedative is given to help relax you. The eye is anesthetized with drops and a small incision is made. A machine with ultrasound power is used to remove the cataract and a new intraocular lens is inserted. After surgery, the vision is slightly blurry but clears rapidly. Most activities can be resumed one day after cataract surgery.
A cataract cannot come back once it’s been removed. However, posterior capsular opacification, also know as a “secondary cataract” is a common condition that can occur after cataract surgery. This condition occurs when the posterior capsule (the membrane surrounding the natural lens which is intentionally left inside the eye) becomes cloudy, causing the vision to become blurred. This is easily treated with a laser called Yag capsulotomy in the office.