A Common Vision Problem: What Are Cataracts and How Can They Be Treated?

In “A Minute of Health” on the program “La Hora del Café” from El Mundo Boston, Dr. Luis Martínez Velásquez, a renowned ophthalmologist from Mass General Brigham, explained in detail what cataracts are—a common visual condition that affects many people—their causes, symptoms, and how they can be effectively treated.

What Are Cataracts and Why Do They Form?

Dr. Martínez explained that cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye, which is transparent at birth, becomes yellowish and opaque over time. This change prevents light from entering the eye correctly, causing blurry vision and difficulty seeing from a distance. When vision becomes severely affected, the cataract is considered mature, and surgery is necessary to replace the opaque lens with a new one.

Symptoms and Detection

The early signs of cataracts include difficulty seeing from a distance and temporary improvement in near vision. One of the most specific symptoms is difficulty driving at night due to extreme sensitivity to vehicle lights. If these symptoms appear, it is crucial to consult an ophthalmologist for a proper evaluation.

Treatment of Cataracts

The only effective solution for cataracts is surgery. Despite the existence of products on the market that claim to treat cataracts with drops, Dr. Martínez emphasized that there are no approved medications that can prevent or cure this condition. Cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure that, thanks to medical advances, allows many patients to regain clear and functional vision.

Cataract Surgery

The surgical procedure for treating cataracts is quick, generally taking between 10 and 40 minutes, and is considered extremely safe. Most patients experience significant improvement in their vision from the first postoperative day. Although a week of recovery without heavy activities is recommended, cataract surgery has proven to be an effective solution for restoring vision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can contact lenses be used after cataract surgery?

Dr. Martínez explained that most cataract surgeries use monofocal lenses, meaning patients will need glasses for close activities, such as reading. While some patients may use a single contact lens for near vision, it is generally not recommended to use contact lenses for both eyes after surgery.

What conditions accelerate the development of cataracts?

Dr. Martínez also highlighted that certain conditions common among Hispanics, such as diabetes and steroid use, can accelerate the development of cataracts. Additionally, prolonged sun exposure and smoking are factors that contribute to cataract formation.

Are there any risks or complications associated with cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most common surgeries performed today. However, like any surgery, there are some risks. These can include infection, inflammation, bleeding, retinal detachment, and increased eye pressure. Most of these risks are rare and treatable. It is important to follow postoperative care instructions and attend all follow-up appointments with the ophthalmologist.

What type of anesthesia is used during cataract surgery?

Is usually performed under local anesthesia. This can include anesthetic drops to numb the eye and, sometimes, an injection around the eye to ensure it is completely immobile and pain-free. Patients are typically awake but relaxed during the procedure. In some cases, mild sedation may be administered to help patients feel more comfortable.

When can I resume my normal activities after cataract surgery?

Most people can resume their normal activities the day after surgery, although it is recommended to avoid strenuous activities, heavy lifting, and swimming for at least a week. It is also important to protect the eye from irritants and follow the doctor’s instructions for the use of eye drops and other postoperative care measures. Vision may continue to improve for several weeks after surgery.

Essential Resources for Ophthalmological Issues in Massachusetts

  1. Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary – Specializes in ophthalmological issues, including cataracts. Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, 243 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114, 617-523-7900
  2. Massachusetts General Hospital – Department of Ophthalmology – Offers comprehensive ophthalmology services. Massachusetts General Hospital Ophthalmology, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114, 617-573-3202
  3. MassHealth – State health insurance program that may cover ophthalmological treatments. MassHealth, 100 Hancock St., 1st Floor, Quincy, MA 02171, (800) 841-2900
  4. Local community health centers – Community health centers that may offer accessible ophthalmological services.

For more information and consultations, remember to visit your ophthalmologist and maintain regular check-ups to preserve your eye health.

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