Cataract Awareness

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Mountain View Eye Center’s Weekly Blog

Cataract Awareness

June is Cataract Awareness month! It is estimated that more than 25 million Americans have a cataract. Fortunately, advances in technology have made treating cataracts safer and more effective than ever. In this blog, we’ll discuss what cataracts are, what the symptoms are, and your treatment options. 

What is a Cataract?

A cataract occurs when the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque. This clouding prevents light from reaching the back of the eye, causing vision to become impaired. Cataracts are most commonly due to the normal aging process, but can have other causes. There are 4 common types of cataract:

Age-Related: The most common type of cataract, usually beginning after age 40.

Congenital: Present a birth. Can be caused by complications during pregnancy or genetics.

Traumatic: Caused by injury to the eye.

Secondary: Caused by underlying health conditions or medication use.

Cataracts may form in one or both eyes. Most often cataracts will occur in both eyes, but may not develop at the same rate. They cannot spread from one eye to the other. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of cataracts may include:

  • Blurry or hazy vision
  • Double vision
  • Trouble seeing at night
  • Rings or “halos” around lights
  • Trouble seeing up close
  • Needing additional light to see
  • Increased sensitivity to glare
  • Changes in glasses prescription
  • Colors seem less vibrant

Because cataracts usually develop over time, you may not notice the symptoms right away. The best way to determine whether or not you have cataracts is to have a dilated eye exam.

Who is at risk?

Most people will develop cataracts as they age. There are some factors that may put you at additional risk:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to UV, especially from sunlight
  • Long term steroid use

What can I do to prevent cataracts?

Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight may help to delay cataracts. If you smoke, stop. Researchers also believe good nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related cataract. They recommend eating green leafy vegetables, fruit, and other foods with antioxidants.

If you are age 60 or older, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataract, your eye care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders. Early treatment for many eye diseases may save your sight.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

Your Optometrist or Ophthalmologist will diagnose cataracts by doing a complete eye exam. During this exam, you will complete a questionnaire to help your doctor evaluate your symptoms. Your vision will be tested, then your doctor will then dilate your eyes. If it is determined that you have a cataract, you may need to have additional testing done. This type of exam is very thorough, and you should plan to be in the office for at least 2 hours.

How are they treated?

The only treatment for cataracts is surgery. Surgery is necessary when symptoms begin to interfere with your daily activities. Cataract surgery can be scheduled when you are ready, and is usually safe to postpone until you and your doctor feel it is appropriate. Cataract surgery is a minimally invasive procedure, and about 9 out of 10 people who get cataract surgery see better afterward according to the National Institute of Health.

What can I expect?

If your doctor determines that you are a candidate for cataract surgery, they will refer you to our Cataract Surgery Coordinator. The Surgery Coordinator will walk you through all aspects of the surgery, and provide you with the necessary paperwork. You will have to complete a physical exam to ensure that you are healthy enough for surgery. You can have this exam with your primary care doctor, or with Dr. Katherine Johnson. 

You will need to return to the clinic for a scans appointment. During this appointment, a technician will measure your eye, to determine the type and strength of implant that the doctor will use. If you wear contact lenses, you will need to discontinue use for 2 weeks prior to this appointment.

Your surgery will be scheduled at FMH hospital. You will need to contact the hospital prior to your surgery to find out what time you should arrive.

You will need to fast for 12 hours before your surgery. Patients with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, will be scheduled for surgery first.

Most people stay awake during cataract surgery, and it usually takes less than an hour. You will be given a sedative and your eye will be numb. You will not feel the surgery. You will need to stay at the hospital for a few hours after surgery, but you an go home the same day. You will need someone to drive you home. 

During the surgery, a small incision will be made. The lens of your eye will be removed by a process called phacoemulsification. An artificial lens will be implanted into the eye.

If you are having surgery on both eyes, they will be performed on different days, usually 1-2 weeks apart. 

What are my options?

Standard Cataract Surgery:

Our standard surgery involves the implantation of a monofocal intra-ocular lens (IOL). This standard procedure and IOL is covered by most major payers when cataract symptoms are strong enough to interfere with your activities of daily living. You will need glasses after cataract surgery, as this lens only allows you to see at a distance or up close without correction, not both. Additionally, although the measurements used to determine your lens power are very accurate, they are not an exact science, and you may need glasses for both distance and near vision. Note that this surgical option does not correct astigmatism.

Refractive Cataract Surgery:

Our refractive cataract surgery package includes everything in the standard package, but with a few extras. Your surgeon will use Optiwave Refractive Analysis (ORA) during the surgery to take even more accurate measurements of your lens power, allowing for much more precise results and a higher chance of meeting the targeted outcomes. Additionally, if you have astigmatism, your surgeon will select a specialized lens (called a toric lens) and/or make limbal-relaxing incisions (LRI) as needed to reduce or eliminate the effect of your astigmatism on your vision. As with the standard package, you will still need glasses after cataract surgery to see up close; however, with this package, you greatly reduce the chance that you will need a prescription to see clearly at a distance.

Note that your insurance will not cover the charge for the refractive add-on. We recommend asking about your options at your appointment and choosing the package that is right for you.

Multifocal Refractive Cataract Surgery:

Our multifocal refractive cataract surgery package includes everything in the standard and refractive packages, but instead of a monofocal lens where you will need glasses to see up close, you will receive a Symfony extended depth of focus multifocal intraocular lens. Multifocal lenses allow you to see normally at both distance and near without the use of glasses, and with the power of ORA lens calculation on your side, you will have a much higher than average chance of meeting your targeted visual outcomes and never needing glasses again.

Note, again, that your insurance will not cover the charge for the multifocal refractive add-on. We recommend asking about your options at your appointment and choosing the package that is right for you.

Surgical Add-Ons:

iStent and iStent Inject

If you suffer from glaucoma as well as cataracts, you may be a good candidate to receive an iStent or iStent inject at the same time that you undergo cataract surgery. This process is known as a minimally-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS), and is performed by placing a tiny implant into your eye after the surgeon has made the initial incision for cataract removal.

This procedure is covered by most major insurance payers, and can help drastically reduce your reliance on glaucoma medications. Your doctor can help you decide if iStent is right for you.

Why Dr. Katherine Johnson?

Dr. Johnson has been performing cataract surgery for over 12 years. A certified Diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology, Dr. Johnson began her education by graduating with honors from Harvard University. She received her medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and completed her specialty training in Ophthalmology at the renowned Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida—an institution which continues to be ranked the #1 eye hospital and #1 residency training program in the nation by US News and World Report and Ophthalmology Times. 

In addition:

  • Dr. Johnson performs over 450 cataract surgeries per year.
  • Since establishing her practice in Fairbanks, Dr. Johnson has performed well over 4,000 total cataract surgeries.
  • Dr. Johnson is a highly efficient cataract surgeon, with an average surgical duration of 7 minutes.
  • Dr. Johnson’s surgical outcomes are among the best, and the data proves it. The ORA device takes measurements and rates her patients’ visual outcomes against national data, full of providers using the same machine, and she comes out ahead of the curve.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. We hope you find this information helpful. If you would like more information about cataract surgery, please click the link below. 

To schedule a cataract evaluation, call or text (907) 328-2920.

Learn More About Cataract Surgery 

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