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[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap]cataract is an aging change inside the natural lens of your eye. You are born with a crystalline lens inside your eye that allows you to focus on objects at different distances. When you are younger, the lens is clear, but with time, it becomes more yellow and more opaque. The opacified lens is what we call a cataract.

Cataracts affect your vision, potentially leading to changes in your glasses prescription, but cataracts do not cause pain. Unfortunately, symptoms will continue to worsen with time. Once your vision starts to interfere with your daily activities and keeps you from doing things you need, or like, to do, it is usually time to have a discussion with your ophthalmologist.

When to have cataract surgery is a decision you make with your surgeon. Some people wait longer than others, depending on their jobs, daily activities and goals for their vision. There are risks and benefits to any surgery. Cataract surgery is an elective procedure, so you will want to make sure you are in good health to undergo a local anesthesia. Today, there are a number of different options for numbing the eye during surgery, and there are also several options for implants that allow different improvements to your vision after surgery. One of the newest technologies is laser-assisted cataract surgery. The first time I performed this surgery, I was amazed by the precision and ease with which the laser created incisions, helped to fragment the lens and removed low astigmatism from the cornea. Today, laser-assisted cataract surgery is a mainstay for the practice and treating my patients. Coupled with this is also an intraoperative aberrometer.

This device helps measure the length and curvature of the eye after the removal of the cataract, to remove artifact or opacities. The measurement aids in selecting the best lens for the patient, the lens that will give them the best vision without requiring glasses. It is particularly useful in post-op LASIK patients and those with dense cataracts.

The surgery is pretty straightforward, but there are some restrictions on activities after surgery. Vision recovers quickly, but it can have fluctuations for the first few weeks and during the time you are administering drops. Although they are incredibly rare, complications can occur such as swelling, infection, inflammation and increased eye pressure. Most of these are limited and can be treated with drops, but sometimes there is a need for more surgery.

If you think you have cataracts, or if you just need an eye exam, please contact the South Texas Eye Institute.


Lisa Martén, M.D., is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Martén can be reached at the South Texas Eye Institute, located at 2424 Babcock Road, Suite 101 in San Antonio, TX 78229. For more information visit or call 210.692.1388.

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