Cloudy eyesight can be had at any age, yet it is most common in people over age 60. In the United States, 75% of people over 60 years of age have a sign of cataracts.

What Are Cataracts?

Normally clear eye lenses get cloudy slowly and painlessly. Vision in the eye(s) affected gets worse. This is called a cataract.

What Causes Cataracts?

Environmental factors like; excessive sun exposure, smoking, exposure to other toxic substances, excessive ultraviolet light exposure, and certain medications that can speed up cataract formation (cortisone). Diabetes and other diseases that cause inflammation or affect metabolism increase the risk factor for cataracts. Eye injury and family history of cataracts are other factors. There are also unknown answers to what causes cataracts. An ongoing question about statins (drugs used to lower cholesterol levels) causing or preventing cataracts is still being studied.

Symptoms of Cataracts:

  • clouded, blurred or dim vision
  • seeing halos around lights
  • double vision in a single eye
  • frequent changes in contact or eyeglass prescription
  • sensitivity to light and glare
  • increasing difficulty with night vision
  • fading or yellowing of colors.

If you notice any of those symptoms you may want to see an eye doctor  because you may have a cataract diagnosis. The sooner you find out, the less fear is attached about something being wrong. I know from my experience with cataracts diagnosis that the more I found out, the less likely I have been to dwell on it, and fret about it.

Intraocular Lens Implant

Surgery is the treatment for cataracts. Since all surgery has risks, it is best to wait until your vision is no better than 20/40 and functional limitations have become serious. Most insurers follow medicare guidelines, and so do the ophthalmologists. The decision to have the surgery is a personal one, depending on how disruptive the cataracts are and consideration of the risk/ benefit ratio. Surgery is usually done on one eye at a time. All in all, cataract surgery is considered and proven to be quite safe and successful for vision restoration.

The surgery goes like this (in lay terms). The eye is numbed, then a small cut at the edge of the cornea is made for the instruments to reach inside the lens. A probe is inserted that breaks up and sucks out the cataract. Then the intraocular (artificial lens) is inserted behind the iris. Usually the eye heals without any stitches because the opening (cut) is so small.

Complications of Cataract Surgery

The most serious complication or risk is that of infection. That is why only one eye is done at a time. It is smart to work with an ophthalmologist who specializes in cataract surgery extensively, and one your optometrist has recommended if you go that route. It is a matter of trust, but you can do some research on the surgical center, and the Dr. to further your knowledge and confidence in the surgery. Another complication is if the cataract pieces haven’t been all removed. The old lens parts may require more surgery for removal.

Cataract surgery side effects are usually great! Depending on the choice of lens used for replacement you can usually have near perfect vision corrected for at least one way (near or far). The lens should last the rest of your life because it is very durable, and your vision will be clear.

What is Cataract Surgery Cost?

This may vary like many surgery costs, but I have discovered a basic cost for standard cataract surgery is $1800.00 per eye. That is only the surgeons fee. Then you have anesthesiologist fee, treatment center or surgical center fee, tests, eye drops, etc. It can easily add up to $5500.00 per eye for a 10 minute, out-patient surgery. There are now a choice of replacement lenses besides the standard monofocal lens (correct for one distance). They are multifocal lens that correct for near and far. Plus, there are Toric lenses that correct for astigmatism. The different optical designs for the new intraocular lenses each offer different strengths and limitations that your Dr. should be able to explain to you when making your surgery decision.

Medicare will cover monofocal lenses, as will most insurers, however they won’t cover the specialized newer lenses, and the added cost is easily up to $3,000.00 per lens. So, it isn’t cheap, and it is changing quickly with the new lenses offered.

My Experience So Far

For a couple of months my left eye seemed like it had something in it. I kept changing contacts, and rubbing them with solution, thinking that there were heavy protein deposits smearing them. Then I started wearing my glasses and realized my left eye vision was definitely clouded. At the time, I thought cataracts were for people in their 70’s or so. I had no clue they were so common, and that the surgery isn’t considered a big deal. So, I made an appointment with my Dr. (optometrist), who explained to me, and showed me pictures of both eyes, each with cataracts, although the right eye isn’t as advanced.

I was absolutely shocked, and asked him about causes, and if I would have to leave town to get the surgery. I found out that the surgery is available in the valley where I reside, yet he recommends an ophthalmologist in another town who he says, “He never misses. I would recommend my mother to him.” Phew. I trust my guy, so I will probably got to the other recommended Dr. when my vision warrants the present guidelines for having the surgery. Unfortunately I won’t be eligible for medicare yet, ( he thought I would need it within 2 years), and whether I will have insurance then is questionable.

So, in the meantime I opted to have new lenses put in my glasses frame that I like, and purchased clip-ons  for sun protection rather than spend the money on transitions. That was cheaper than contacts, and new glasses with transitions and progressive lenses. I can do without reading glasses, so that is a help. If I feel I need some, I have a pair I can use. I have also researched current cataract information, even non-surgical treatment (which I found out isn’t valid). Hopefully by the time I need the surgery it will be more affordable.