Cataracts are a common age-related eye condition that can gradually cloud vision. As you age, the lenses in your eyes are at risk of becoming less transparent, causing blurred or fuzzy sight.
At Maine Eye Center, our cataract surgeons have the experience and expertise to help restore your vision.
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract is a natural clouding of the lens inside the eye, which typically occurs with age. The lens is very important for clear vision, as it is partially responsible for focusing the light on the retina.
For most people, their natural lens is transparent at birth and throughout childhood and into adulthood. However, when a cataract develops, the lens becomes increasingly opaque and cloudy, preventing light from passing through it easily.
When the light can’t reach the retina, vision often becomes blurred or hazy. These and many other symptoms often increase gradually over time.
What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Cataracts?
Cataracts tend to develop gradually. For this reason, many people may not have very noticeable symptoms when first diagnosed with cataracts.
However, as they worsen, some common symptoms you may experience are:
- Cloudy, blurry vision like looking through a foggy window
- Colors appearing faded or yellowed
- Glare, especially at night, from oncoming headlights or lamps
- Halos or starbursts seen around lights
- Double vision in one eye
- Poor night vision and trouble seeing in dim conditions
- Frequent changes in glasses or contact lens prescription
- Needing to change glasses prescriptions more frequently
- Impaired contrast sensitivity and trouble distinguishing contrasts between objects
Advanced cataracts can significantly blur vision. Your eye doctor will likely recommend cataract surgery once your symptoms begin to interfere with daily activities like reading, driving, watching TV, and recognizing faces.
What Causes Cataracts?
The most common cause of cataracts is aging. As you get older, changes happen in the proteins that make up your eye’s lens.
These proteins start to clump together over time, forming cloudy areas that block light and cause blurry vision. Some babies are simply born with them or develop cataracts in childhood that are inherited genetically.
Other factors that increase cataract risk include medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, smoking, and long-term steroid medication use. Past injuries to the eye, eye surgeries, or inflammation inside the eye may trigger cataracts to form as well.
Additionally, prolonged exposure to certain chemicals or drugs can damage the lens over time and raise cataract risk. Although cataracts have a number of possible causes, most people develop cataracts due to the natural aging process.
What Happens During Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning you will get to go home the same day. After numbing the surface of your eyes with eye drops, your cataract surgeon will make a very small opening on the surface of the eye.
Through this opening, they will be able to access the cloudy natural lens inside your eye. Next, your cataract surgeon will use a special ultrasound tool to gently break the lens into tiny pieces.
Then, they will carefully suction out these tiny pieces. After removing all of the tiny pieces of your natural lens, your cataract surgeon will insert an artificial replacement lens called an intraocular lens, or IOL, through the small opening.
This IOL is made of plastic or silicone and acts as a substitute for the natural lens that was removed. Choosing an IOL to replace your natural lens is an essential part of your cataract surgery journey.
Your eye doctor will help you choose which one is best for you. After inserting the IOL and positioning it in place, the tiny opening in your cornea is left to heal naturally during your recovery.
The opening is so small that stitches are not needed. Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most common surgeries performed today.
How Much Does Cataract Surgery Cost?
While insurance often covers a portion of cataract surgery costs, some components like advanced technology intraocular lenses or laser-assisted procedures may not be fully covered. Maine Eye Center offers flexible financing options to help patients access the most advanced cataract treatment, including advanced lenses that can reduce dependence on glasses after surgery.
By partnering with leading financing companies, low monthly payment plans can be provided to fit many budgets. Expert cataract surgeons in Maine will explain the different lens and procedural options during a consultation and determine if a patient is a candidate for advanced technology upgrades.
Patients are encouraged to meet with the team to learn about the steps to improved vision through individualized cataract surgery care plans, even if there are concerns about cost. The goal is to provide optimum results at a reasonable out-of-pocket expense through customized treatment plans and financing.
Are you experiencing vision changes? Schedule a cataract evaluation at Maine Eye Center in Portland, ME, today!