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Des Moines Eye Surgeons
5901 Westown Parkway
Suite 200
West Des Moines, IA 50266

5901 Westown Parkway, Suite 200, West Des Moines, IA 50266


Understanding Cataracts

Starting Cataract Surgery at Des Moines Eye Surgeons

Many patients think that a cataract is actually a film that spreads over the surface of the eye. Some patients are even concerned that cataracts will make them go blind. In reality, a cataract is a naturally occurring change in the eye that is a gradual clouding that makes vision less sharp over time. Patients typically report the sensation of looking through the wax paper, they often have trouble driving at night and colors seems very dull. As you already know the eye works much like a camera and like a camera the lens must be very clear to see well. A healthy transparent lens absorbs light and accurately focuses it onto the retina, providing a crisp clear image. As the aging process takes hold of our eyes proteins begin to clump together forming opaque clusters. Over time these protein deposits eventually cloud the entire lens allowing significantly less light to pass through. The small amount of light that does make it through is diffused or scattered leaving vision defocused. These protein clusters can also change the color of the normally clear lens making it a yellowish brown color.

Eye with a Cataract vs. Healthy Eyes

Please feel free to visit the other pages of the cataract center on the Des Moines Eye Surgeons ophthalmology website. You might begin with the cataract surgery page to get a better understanding of how the surgical process works. Major advancements in technology have made modern day cataract surgery much easier than the past. No longer are long hospitalizations required to have cataracts removed. Please also feel free to learn more about our premium lens implants as well.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. This clouding can be the reason sharp images become blurred, bright colors become dull, seeing at night is more difficult or why your reading glasses no longer seem to help. The most common cause of cataracts is related to the aging of the eye.  Other causes of cataract development may include the use of high-risk medications such as prolonged steroid use, family history, history of an eye injury, previous ocular surgery and chronic exposure to ultra-violet light from the sun.

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What are the symptoms of cataracts?

  • A gradual, painless blurring of vision
  • Glare or sensitivity to light
  • Poor night vision
  • Needing brighter light to read
  • Fading or yellowing of colors

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How are Cataracts treated?

Cataract surgery is the only way a cataract can be treated. However, if the symptoms of the cataract are tolerable and you can maintain your level of daily activities, surgery may not be needed. Sometimes during the early development of the cataract, a simple change in your glasses prescription will improve your vision. Surgery should be considered when cataracts cause enough loss of clarity to interfere with daily activities.

No medications, dietary supplements, or eye exercises have been shown to prevent or cure cataracts.  Protection from the ultra-violet light from the sun may slow down the progression of cataract development.

Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed medical procedures, with over 3 million surgeries performed each year. It is also one of the most successful surgeries performed. It is usually performed on an outpatient basis which means you do not have to spend the night in the hospital. It is generally performed under topical (eyedrops) anesthesia.

On the day of surgery, your eye will be dilated with eye drops. Once your pupil has been properly dilated, you will be taken to the operating room.  The procedure to remove the cataract takes approximately 10 minutes. First, the surgeon will make a tiny incision at the outer edge of your cornea. The surgeon will then use an ultrasound-powered instrument to liquefy and remove your cataract. This part of the procedure is called phacoemulsification. Once the cloudy lens has been removed, the surgeon will place a new, clear intraocular lens in its place.

After surgery, your doctor will place a shield over the operated eye before you go home. Drops will be prescribed to prevent infection and inflammation in the eye. You will also receive detailed post-operative instructions.

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Intraocular Lenses

When the cloudy lens is removed from your eye during cataract surgery, the surgeon will replace it with a new, clear intraocular lens implant. There are different types of intraocular lens implants available to choose from. The options include a standard intraocular lens, toric intraocular lens or a premium intraocular lens.

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Standard Intraocular Lens (IOL)

Standard or single-focus IOL’s focus your vision for a single distance. This means that your surgeon can set the focus for distance so you will have good distance vision without the use of glasses and then wear glasses for near and intermediate (computer) activities. The surgeon could also set the focus for near so you will have good near vision without the use of reading glasses and then wear glasses to see far distances.

Toric Intraocular Lens (IOL)

Toric IOL’s can correct for astigmatism. Astigmatism occurs when the surface of your cornea is curved in such a way that it distorts your vision. If you have a cataract and corneal astigmatism, you will not have sharp distance vision after cataract surgery unless the astigmatism is corrected. Your surgeon can use a toric IOL to correct for astigmatism which would result in having clear distance vision without the need for glasses. Most patients will still need glasses for near and intermediate tasks.

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Advanced Technology Intraocular Lens (IOL)

Premium or multifocal IOL’s can focus on multiple distances and therefore reduce or eliminate the need for glasses.  People with active lifestyles often prefer the enhanced range of vision provided by the premium implants. The premium IOL’s available include Technis Multifocal, ReSTOR, and Crystalens.  If you like the idea of decreasing your dependence on glasses for most activities, ask your surgeon if you are a candidate for a premium implant.

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Request an appointment with Des Moines Eye Surgeons. Iowa’s cataract surgery specialists.