What Are Cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens. While some cataracts exhibit characteristic cloudiness, others are virtually undetectable without the aid of a trained medical professional using appropriate equipment. While most patients experience a slow, progressive decline in vision due to cataracts, some may suffer more rapid visual loss.

Cataract Symptoms

Cataracts are part of the natural aging process and will affect the majority of people aged 75 and greater. Some factors increase an individual's risk of developing cataracts and include a family history of cataracts, extensive exposure to sunlight, long-term use of steroid medication, history of smoking, previous eye trauma, and previous eye surgery.

Blurred vision is the symptom most frequently mentioned by patients with cataracts. Many patients first notice blurred vision during activities such as reading and driving, particularly night driving. It's also common for cataract patients to experience generalized haze and difficulty with color perception. "Halos" around lights such as headlights or street lights are also very common among patients with cataracts. This can make driving difficult, which, in turn, may affect confidence and the ability to live independently.

Modern cataract surgery has improved results, greater comfort, and less post-operative limitations. Many patients are choosing cataract surgery prior to the cataract becoming “ripe” as it used to be termed.

Cataract Treatment Options

Not all cataract patients need surgery immediately. Sometimes, a change in a patient's corrective lens prescription improves vision such that cataract surgery may be postponed.

For cataract patients who are ready for surgery, today's cataract surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure. The recovery period requires virtually no downtime and the results can be enjoyed almost immediately. During the first week following cataract surgery, patients are advised to avoid any strenuous activity such as exercise, bending, and heavy lifting, and to avoid getting water, dirt or dust in the eye that may cause an infection.

Cataract Surgery - Phacoemulsification

Cataract surgery is among the most commonly performed and successful surgical procedures in the Medicare-aged population. Over two million cataract removal procedures are performed annually in the United States. The technique used for cataract removal is called phacoemulsification. "Phaco" means "lens" and "emulsification" means "to liquefy." During the cataract removal procedure, ultrasound waves are used to liquefy the cataract (the cloudy lens) and aspirate the liquefied lens from the eye. The cloudy lens is replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL) that becomes a permanent part of the patient's eye. IOLs are made of plastic, silicone, or acrylic.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with cataract surgery that are reviewed by either the doctor or cataract counselor prior to surgery.

In most cases, cataract surgery improves vision for daily activities, including reading, participating in and enjoying art, golfing, and driving (especially night driving). Patients frequently say they feel more in control and confident in day-to-day situations as a result of the cataract surgery. Patients benefit from our commitment to providing exceptional care every step of the way, from preoperative evaluations to postoperative care.

Costs of cataract surgery are usually covered by Medicare for those patients with Medicare Part B coverage. Most private insurance plans cover this procedure, although deductibles, coinsurances, and pre-existing condition riders may affect the amounts covered. Contact member services for your particular private insurance plan if you have questions about coverage. Premium IOLs (see below), are not covered by Medicare or private insurance and are paid for by the patient prior to surgery.

Vision correction after cataract surgery -- which IOL is best for you?

Conventional IOL

During the time of cataract removal, an IOL is placed in the eye. This IOL replaces the focusing power provided by the natural lens of the eye that's been removed during cataract surgery. The standard or conventional IOL has the same power everywhere in the lens. Many patients choose this type of IOL knowing they will need to wear glasses for at least some visual activities.

Premium IOL

For patients who want to decrease their dependence on glasses following cataract surgery, there are new advanced technology IOLs that can correct astigmatism (known as a toric IOL) or correct presbyopia (known as a presbyopia correcting or multifocal/ accommodative IOL). Presbyopia is the condition that requires glasses for near vision tasks even if no correction is needed for distance vision.

Not all patients are good candidates for a premium IOL. Side effects may include glare or halos around lights or decreased sharpness of vision at night or in low light. If you are a good candidate for a premium IOL, and you want to reduce your dependence on glasses after the surgery, a premium IOL may be your best choice. The doctor or the cataract counselor will review your options so you may make an informed decision about your IOL.

Premium IOLs are not covered by Medicare or private insurance plans, so the additional cost is paid for by the patient. For patients that want and would benefit from a premium IOL, but prefer financing the IOL, CareCredit may be an option. Link to CareCredit
today to learn more about patient financing options.

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