Port Hueneme - Oxnard Optometrist Dr. Don Steensma 465 W. Channel Islands Blvd, Port Hueneme, CA 805/486-3585

A cataract is an opacity in the eyes internal focusing lens

Most people start developing cataracts during their 60's.  Diabetics often develop cataracts at a younger age.  Some people are born with cataracts as a result of a toxic influence on the lenses development before birth.  Trauma, radiation and some medications also can produce cataracts.  When the cataract reduces vision to a point that it is affecting a person's lifestyle, cataract surgery is preformed.

The lens is made of mostly water and protein strings.  These protein strings are arranged side-by-side in a very precise manner which allows light to pass through the lens.  Over time, free radicals within the lens fibers disrupt the precise alignment of the fibers which disrupts the light passing through the lens.  When the lens takes on a hazy appearance but does not yet affect vision, it is called nuclear sclerosis.  When the cloudiness begins to reduce vision, it is called a cataract.  Often times, the cataract takes on a yellowish or brown coloration which may affect a person's color vision.

The risk of developing a cataract increases as you get older.  Other risk factors for cataract include diabetes, smoking and ultraviolet exposure.  Wearing sunglasses, eating leafy vegetables, fruits and other foods high in antioxidants and generally keeping yourself healthy, can help reduce the risk of developing a cataract.  The symptoms of a cataract are cloudy or blurred vision, and nighttime glare or halos around lights.  The only way to diagnose a cataract is with an eye examination.

The blurred vision from an early cataract is usually improved with new eye glasses especially when they have antiglare coatings.  Brighter lights for reading may also be helpful.  When the vision, even with new eyeglasses, is not enough for that person's lifestyle, cataract surgery is called for.  In most cases, that is when the persons best corrected visual acuity is 20/50. You do not have to rush into surgery.  Typically, the cataract is more advanced in one eye than the other so that is the eye that has the surgery first.  Both eyes are never done at the same time.

The most common cataract surgical procedure is called phacoemulsification.  In this procedure, a very small incision is made on the side of the eye and the doctor inserts a tiny probe into the eye.  The probe softens and breaks up the lens and removes it by suction.  After the cataract is removed, a clear plastic intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted into the eye.  It becomes a permanent part of the eye and requires no maintenance.

Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States.  It is also one of the safest and most effective surgeries performed.  The surgery usually takes less than an hour to complete and is almost painless.  You will be mildly sedated, but awake.  Prescription eye drops will be used for several weeks after surgery.  In most cases, the healing process will be complete within 2 months.  Usually your eye glasses are changed at one month after surgey.  Often times, months or years after cataract surgery, a membrane behind the cataract becomes cloudy which is often called an "after cataract".  This is treated with a painless in-office procedure called a YAG laser capsulotomy.