Vision with cataracts

The eye's natural crystalline lens helps us focus on people and things at varying distances. Unfortunately, as we grow older this lens often stiffens and hardens, and without its youthful suppleness it loses its ability to focus, creating vision problems. This condition — for most, a natural consequence of aging — is called presbyopia.

As we age, these changes occurring to the natural crystalline lens can lead to the development of cataracts, or a loss in clarity of the lens. Since the lens is no longer as flexible or as clear as it used to be, the eye can't focus light properly.

What Causes Cataracts?

While cataracts can occur as a result of other eye diseases, they mostly develop naturally with age. In fact, by age 65, many of us will develop a cataract.

There are other, less common causes of cataracts as well, including heredity, birth defects, chronic diseases such as diabetes, excessive use of steroid medications, and certain eye injuries.

Symptoms of Cataracts

At first, symptoms may be undetectable or very slight. However, any noticeable change in vision may be cause for concern, and should be brought to the attention of an eye care professional. Common symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Cloudy or blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Frequent prescription changes for glasses or contact lenses
  • Poor night vision
  • Color vision changes and dimming
  • Double vision in a single eye

Treatment for Cataracts

While there is no way to prevent cataracts, there are things you can do to slow their formation. Modifiable factors that increase the risk of cataract include smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and excessive alcohol intake. You may also slow the formation of cataracts by protecting your eyes from direct sunlight.

In the beginning stages of cataracts, vision may be slightly improved using forms of visual correction. However, in the later stages, surgery may be required. Fortunately, surgery has proven to be extremely successful in the removal of cataracts. During cataract surgery, your physician will replace your natural lens with an IOL.

Intraocular lenses (IOLs)

There are several choices of IOLs that can be used in cataract surgery. Each one can correct cataracts, but some IOLs can also correct other vision problems, such as astigmatism (a condition in which objects both near and far become blurred or distorted) and/or presbyopia (a condition that usually occurs after age 40 which causes blurry vision at near distances).

For cataract correction only: A standard monofocal IOL can be used. The lens is placed in a fixed position in the eye (it doesn't move) that is designed to deliver improved vision at one distance (usually far). See enVista Intraocular lens (IOL) page for more information about our standard monofocal product.

For cataracts and astigmatism: A premium toric IOL can be used, which, in addition to correcting cataracts, is designed to correct astigmatism. Please see the enVista Toric IOL page for more information on our toric IOL product for cataracts and astigmatism.

For cataracts, astigmatism and presbyopia: A premium toric IOL can be used, which, in addition to correcting cataracts, is designed to correct astigmatism and presbyopia. Please see the TRULIGN Toric IOL page for more information about our toric IOL product for cataracts, astigmatism and presbyopia.

For cataracts and presbyopia: An accommodating IOL can be used. It is designed to "flex" or "accommodate" using the eye’s natural muscles to focus on subjects at various distances, delivering a range of vision at near as well as far distances. Please see the Crystalens AO Lens page for more information about our accommodating IOL product.

If you or someone you know is considering cataract surgery, it is important to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of cataract surgery and which IOL may be right for you.

Photo courtesy of National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.

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