Home Cataracts What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are Common, but Highly Treatable

Over 25 million Americans have cataracts — in which the eye’s natural lens progressively becomes more cloudy, resulting in impaired vision. The procedure is recommended if cataracts start to interfere with your daily activities. The cloudy lens needs to be replaced with an artificial lens to prevent vision loss and restore clear vision. According to the Prevent Blindness study, “The Future of Vision,” that number may increase to 38.5 million by 2032. Learn more about the types of cataracts and cataract surgery that can correct this debilitating threat to your vision.

Types of Cataracts

At the Swagel Wootton Eye Institute in Arizona, our ophthalmologists and optometrists treat three main types of cataracts, which are distinguished according to their location. 

Nuclear Cataracts

Nuclear cataracts or nuclear sclerotic cataracts are the most common type that we treat. If you live long enough, you will likely have a nuclear cataract at some point. The form in the middle of the lens gets progressively worse. At first, your reading vision may temporarily improve, but it doesn’t last. Vision problems will persist if you do not receive proper treatment.

Eventually, the lens hardens, turning yellow or brown. You have difficulty making out small details, haloes appear around lights and colors become dull.

Cortical Cataracts

These cataracts appear on the cortex or outer edge of your eye lens. They begin at white wedges that point inward. Cortical cataracts scatter light. They cause glare and make it difficult to drive after dark. Patients who have them describe hazy vision and report difficulty distinguishing similar colors. The distance vision and the ability to judge distances may also become impaired. Cortical cataracts affect both near and far sight, so we recommend surgical removal immediately.

Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts

Posterior subcapsular cataracts develop behind the capsule that holds your lens in place. They block light passing through the lens. Symptoms develop early and you may notice changes to your vision in a few months. Close-up vision and bright lighting may become a problem.

Treatment for Cataracts

Our eye doctors may recommend cataract surgery to restore your sight, and adults typically stay awake for the procedure. Local anesthesia administered through a shot or eye drops prevents you from experiencing any pain. Children undergoing cataract surgery are typically asleep for the procedure.

Your doctor uses a microscope for a close-up view of your eye. An incision is made and one of our cataract surgeons in Arizona removes the lens in one of the following procedures:

  • Phacoemulsification: Using a tool that creates sound waves, the surgeon breaks up the cataract and suction the pieces up. This procedure requires a tiny cut.
  • Extracapsular extraction: The cataract is removed in one piece but the procedure requires a longer incision.
  • Laser cataract surgery: The surgeon uses laser energy to create the incision and prepare the cataract for removal. Otherwise, the surgery resembles phacoemulsification. Using the laser may be more accurate.

To complete the procedure, the surgeon places a manmade lens or intraocular lens (IOL) in the lens capsule to improve your vision. Usually, a liquid sealant is used to close the incision. However, the doctor may use tiny stitches to close it. Typically, you get one eye done at a time, and the surgery lasts under an hour.

Cataract Symptoms

Wondering if you have cataract development? Symptoms can differ for advanced cataracts vs a mild cataract. Nonetheless, it’s best to get an eye exam with a professional to examine your clouded lens. Some people experience double vision, blurry vision, reduced contrast sensitivity, loss of depth perception and more. Get more information on our symptoms of cataracts page.

Learn More About Cataract Symptoms

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