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A Patient's Guide To Cataract Care

Cataracts form when proteins within the lens of the eye clump together, obscuring vision. Although cataracts can lead to blindness, modern treatment techniques can minimize or even eliminate their impact on your vision. If you suffer from cataracts, the following guide will help you understand your treatment options.

Initial Diagnosis

In most people, cataracts develop gradually over many years. However, some individuals can develop them more quickly due to factors such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, UV exposure, and diabetes. Regular eye exams can help your optometrist or ophthalmologist identify cataracts in their earliest stages.

Doctors employ various techniques to diagnose cataracts. A basic visual acuity test can help your eye doctor determine whether cataracts affect your vision. An instrument called a slit lamp helps the eye doctor view the cataracts directly. Other diagnostic techniques may include retinal evaluation and fluid pressure measurements.

Non-Surgical Vision Correction

In their earliest stages, your cataracts may not affect your eyesight at all. When symptoms appear, they often include altered color perception, light sensitivity, and blurred or double vision. At this stage, your ophthalmologist may prescribe non-surgical treatments such as glasses, contacts, tinted lenses, and other visual aids.

Cataract Surgery

If your vision degrades to the point that non-surgical treatments can't improve it, you may need to schedule a surgical cataract procedure. Modern cataract surgery can remove diseased cataracts quickly and easily, replacing them with artificial lenses. These lenses can also compensate for refractive errors such as nearsightedness.

Your ophthalmology surgeon will give you sedation and numb your eye with special drops before surgery. A traditional surgical tool or surgical laser makes an incision in the capsule that holds the lens in position. Ultrasound instruments can then break up the lens. After removing the lens, the surgeon inserts the artificial replacement.

Postoperative Cataract Care

Recovery from cataract surgery can take several weeks. During this period, you'll wear a plastic guard that prevents you from touching the treated eye. Your ophthalmologist will recommend that you rest for the first few days following your procedure. You'll also need to apply medicated eye drops to aid in the healing process.

Certain activity restrictions will protect your treated eye during cataract surgery recovery. You will need to postpone swimming, strenuous exercise, dusting, and using soap or makeup around your eyes until your ophthalmologist says you can resume these activities. You should also wear sunglasses when going outdoors in daylight.

Now that you know the basic elements of cataract care, you can take the right steps to preserve your vision and enjoy a complication-free recovery. Contact an eye doctor in your area to schedule a comprehensive eye exam or discuss your cataract procedure options in detail.