Eye Health: What are your Cataract Treatment Options? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on September 02, 2015

Eye Health: What are your Cataract Treatment Options?

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Katrina Stier
(610) 447-6314
Katrina.Stier@crozer.org

It’s common for your vision to change and perhaps worsen as you age. But if the world around you is looking a little blurry – as if you’re looking through a frosty or fogged-up window – there’s a chance you may have a cataract.

Cataracts are cloudy areas in the normally clear lens of your eye, causing changes in your vision. While aging is a common risk factor for cataracts, it’s not the only one.

“Cataracts can be hereditary. If your parents had them at a younger age, you will tend to get them at a younger age,” said John Witherell, M.D., a Crozer-Keystone Health System custom cataract and refractive surgeon. “But there are other factors that influence the development and rate of cataracts.”

Other risks include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, a previous eye injury or inflammation, and some factors you can manage.

“If you're out in the sun a lot, cataracts can come on quicker. If you have poor nutrition, cataracts can come on quicker,” Dr. Witherell said.

Unlike some medical condition diagnoses, finding out you have a cataract often isn’t a surprise.

“Patients will typically know when they have cataracts because they'll have trouble doing things. They'll have trouble reading, they'll have trouble driving, particularly driving at night with headlights coming on [is] very difficult for patients with cataracts – they see lots of glare, lots of halos and that's what usually brings patients in to see us,” he said.

Typically after the age of 40, people are recommended to have a routine eye exam every two years. However, if you’re diagnosed with a cataract, you’ll have eye exams every year or, in some cases, every six months if your physician thinks the cataract is going to rapidly get worse.

When your doctor decides it’s time to treat a cataract, the only effective treatment is surgery. The idea of having surgery performed on your eyes may sound scary, but technology has made it much simpler for patients.

“Up ‘til now, all of our procedures [were] performed with scalpels, with blades, with steel in order to make all of our incisions and at certain points in the procedure, we have to make carefully constructed circular openings within the cataract in order to get the cataract out,” Dr. Witherell said.

But now doctors have access to more advanced tools, including femtosecond lasers, which give doctors even more precision to make accurate incisions to remove cataracts. Not only does this type of cataract surgery allow doctors to eliminate the use of blades, but it’s easier on you.

“In general, the procedure takes about six minutes. The next day, most patients will see better, typically nine out of 10 patients will notice a dramatic improvement within a day and patients will be very happy within a week,” he said. “[With the laser] we tend to see much less swelling on day one and the number of patients who see better on that first day is dramatically increased.”

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