Cataract basics - A State of Sight #1

Ophthalmologist Isaac W. Porter, MD discusses cataracts and cataract surgery in the premier of 'A State of Sight'.

Welcome to A State of Sight, your update in ophthalmology and eye care. I’m your host, Isaac Porter from Lowry Porter Ophthalmology, and we will be bringing you the latest in ophthalmology, general eye care, and eye health updates. Our first topic today will be cataracts.
Cataracts are very common. We see them frequently and it’s one of the most common operations that we do as ophthalmologists. Cataracts occur when the lens inside the eye starts to become cloudy and the treatment is to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear artificial lens implant.
Cataracts are the number one cause of blindness worldwide because many places do not have good access to modern care or technology. Fortunately, in the United States with the health care we have, cataracts are not the leading cause of blindness. Cataracts come further down the list behind other eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Let me show you a model of what an eye looks like and how it works so you can have an idea about where a cataract is. The cornea is the clear shield that covers over the front of the eye that helps the light pass through the eye. Behind that sits the iris, the colored part of the eye, this one is brown but some people have lighter, some people have darker.
In the center is an opening called the pupil. You will notice this as the black spot when you look in someone’s eye. The light passes through the pupil then into the lens. When the lens becomes cloudy, that’s what we call a cataract.
The purpose of the lens is to focus light into the back of the eye on the retina. The retina is like the camera film or the light sensors in the eye that takes the picture of the image that’s coming in and puts that information onto small nerves that join up to form the optic nerve. This nerve passes out the back of the eye and connects to the brain which is how we see.
When the lens becomes cloudy, we can remove it using surgery and replace it with an artificial lens implant. That operation has improved significantly over the last 30 years there have been many major changes, even within the last ten years. We can now safely and efficiently remove a cataract and put in a lens implant through incisions as small as 1.8 millimeters.
Previously, when this was done we had to make large incisions and people stayed in the hospital for many days following surgery. Now, the surgery takes less than one hour and patients go home the same day. For a routine operation, they will come back the next day, then a week later and about one month later, but more often if we think they need it.
Patients will usually use eye drops for about a month afterwards as often as 4 times a day. The vision will slowly improve after surgery but some people can see quite a bit better even the next day.
The vision stabilizes about a month after surgery, at which time we can measure them for new lenses for glasses. Most of the time these lenses have less power than the old glasses because now we can include a lot of the power from the glasses into the lens implant.

Until next time, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and we plan to have a discussion there regarding cataracts and any question that may come up. We hope to hear from you and see you again soon, on our next episode of A State of Sight.