Eye Diseases > Cataracts > General Cataract Information

General Cataract Information

On this page:
How does a cataract affect vision?
How fast does a cataract grow?
When should a cataract be removed?
Aspin, Vitamins, and your cataract
Lasers and cataract surgery
Mevacor and cataracts
On other pages:
Day surgery
Small incision - no stitch cataract surgery
Sutures and cataract surgery
Painless no needles
Extracapsular extraction
What is a cataract? - (CAT-ah-rackt)
Early cataract formation
Moderate cataract formation
Advanced cataract formation
Diabetic cataract
Congenital cataract
Tramatic cataract


How does a cataract affect vision?
Because cataracts are generally slow growing, in the first few years of development most people who have cataracts are unaware of their formation. Vision changes are usually slight and gradual. As months and years pass, most people become somewhat accustomed to their decreased visual status.

A person with advancing cataract formation will experience increasing levels of blurry or hazy vision. Some people describe it as "looking through a fog." You may experience a glare or a halo around bright lights. As the lens of the eye becomes cloudier, colors may appear dull or washed out. Most people will require bright light to assist reading and they will generally find driving at night extremely difficult.

Cataracts do not cause pain, although some people may experience discomfort and/or eyestrain from excessive glare and loss of vision. Cataracts generally cause a much more rapid change in your eyeglass prescription than previously experienced. In addition, these changes are frequently in a reverse power swing from the customary vision changes associated with passing time. It is time to have surgical removal of cataract when your decreasing vision makes it difficult or impossible to carry on your daily activities.

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How fast does a cataract grow?
In most people, cataracts grow very slowly. In fact, less than ten percent of patients who develop cataracts ultimately need to have them removed. On rare occasions, they can develop very quickly causing severe visual loss with associated lifestyle restrictions.

Generally, patients with slight to moderate cataract development have minimal associated problems. They may experience difficulty reading in dim light or driving at night, but have few limitations in daily activities. Since you have some cataract formation, more frequent examination is advised to track cataract progression and to maintain optimum visual function for as long as possible.

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When should a cataract be removed?
Not many years ago, patients would wait until their cataract was ripe or mature before having a cataract removed. By this time, their vision was so poor in the affected eye they could no longer see well enough to read or drive.

With today's microsurgical procedures, surgery does not have to wait until the cataract interferes with everyday activities. Naturally, the recommendation for cataract surgery varies from patient to patient. Many people have a higher level of tolerance for the gradual blur that is associated with cataract advancement, while other lifestyles require the highest level of visual ability.

There are no set standards. This is an individual decision, which depends on you and your specific needs. When the time is right for surgical treatment, we will discuss this further to help you make an informed decision.

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Aspin, Vitamins, and your cataract
Recent medical studies suggest that the daily aspirin that adults take to prevent heart attacks may also help prevent or delay the progression of cataracts. Despite encouraging results, the evidence is not conclusive at this time. Researchers suggest that aspirin may protect the delicate proteins that make up the lens of the eye and prevent them from breaking down. Patients are advised to consult with their physician before taking daily aspirin. In addition, recent research suggests that a daily supplement of Vitamin C and Vitamin E may decrease the risk of cataract development.



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Lasers and cataract surgery

You may have heard that cataracts can now be removed with a laser. You may have even talked to friends or acquaintances who have told you that they have had their cataract removed with a laser. The truth is a cataract cannot be removed with a laser.

A laser is used for many other procedures in ophthalmology such as treating diabetes, retinal detachment, glaucoma or even a condition called "after" cataract. An after cataract is cloudiness that develops in a membrane of an eye some time after a cataract has been removed. In this case, painless laser surgery can provide clear vision in a flash.

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Mevacor and cataracts
The drug Mevacor (Lovastatin) is used to lower your cholesterol level. In the past, our literature advised caution in patients taking this medication in regard to possible cataract formation. Recent medical research does not indicate concern. To date, patients on Mevacor as opposed to those not taking Mevacor(a placebo) develop cataracts at the same rate and with the same occurrence.

It is now speculated that the early trials indicating caution were inconclusive because a patient in the typical age group requiring a cholesterol-lowering agent is in the same age group as those normally developing age-related cataracts. It is advised, however, that patients taking Mevacor have more frequent examinations to track the unlikely possibility of pharmaceutical contraindication.

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