What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens. 

What causes cataracts?

Most cataracts are caused by the natural changes that take place in the eye that occur gradually with age.  Maturing related cataracts usually occur after the age of fifty, however, they can occur as early as thirty.  Cataracts may also be caused by trauma to the eye, medications, excess ultraviolet light and some forms of radiation.  Cataract formation is also associated with smoking and some medical conditions such as diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

The common symptoms of a cataract are:

  • blurred or hazy vision
  • glare, light sensitivity
  • change in color perception
  • double vision

Cataracts can lead to frequent changes in your glasses prescription.  Eventually, even a change in your glasses will not improve your vision.                                                                                     

When should cataracts be treated?

The appropriate time to have a cataract treated is a decision to make with the advice and counseling of your doctor.  When a cataract causes loss of sight and interferes with daily activities or lifestyle it is probably time to have it removed.

How are cataracts treated?

A short surgical procedure is required to remove cataracts.  This involves a visit to a daycare surgery centre.  The procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes per eye and one is done per session.

What happens during the procedure?                                                                                           

First the eye is numbed, usually with drops.  A small incision is made in the cornea, close to the sclera (white part of the eye).  An opening is made in the membrane that surrounds the natural lens.  Through this tiny incision an ultrasound instrument dissolves and removes the cloudy lens.  A lens implant is then inserted through the same opening and in most cases, placed in the same location as your natural lens (inside the lens membrane).  In a short time the lens membrane “shrink wraps” around the implant locking it in place.  Stitches are rarely required.

After your procedure.

After the procedure has been performed, a protective clear plastic shield is placed over the eye.  It is left in place until the following day when it will be removed in the doctor’s office.  You will have a simple sheet of instructions to follow regarding the use of eye drops before and after the operation.

Is cataract surgery always successful?

As with any surgical procedure, success is never 100% guaranteed.  Fortunately, however, cataract surgery is highly successful.  Complications are rare and, when they do occur, can usually be treated.  Following your instructions will help make your surgery a success.


What should I know about lens implants?

Your own natural lens, which has become clouded, is replaced with a clear lens implant.  Lens implants come in different powers just like glasses or contact lenses.  Preoperative measurements of the shape and size of your eye will determine the power of lens implant best suited for your eye.  This lens implant is expected to last a lifetime.

When are lasers used?

Although lasers may be used for the treatment of many eye conditions, currently they are not used to treat cataracts.  A laser may be used after cataract surgery if secondary clouding of the membrane occurs.  The laser makes an opening in the membrane and creates a clear line of sight.  It is a quick and painless procedure that can be performed in the doctor’s office.Revised:  March 01, 2016