University of Iowa Health Care, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

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PACEMAKER: Winter 2003-2004

Aging eyes: Painless and slow-growing, cataracts may require specialized eye surgery

Cataract Formation
Cataract Formation. Progressive generalized cloudiness of the lens or other opacities within the lens as shown in this photo may be corrected with cataract surgery.

Cataract risk factors

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • High cholesterol/triglycerides
  • Steroid medication
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Eye injury


Reprinted with permission from University of Iowa Health Care, Pacemaker, volume 30, number 4, Winter 2003-2004.

Here's a simple quiz for those over age 40:

If these symptoms apply to you, cataracts might be the cause. A cataracts is a clouding of a clear lens within the eye that blocks the passage of light needed for vision.

Cataracts form slowly and cause no pain. Some stay small and hardly affect vision, but if the cataract increases and begins to affect vision, it can usually be removed surgically.

"While cataracts are one of the world's leading causes of blindness, vision loss from cataracts is reversible in most cases," says Tom Oetting, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. "New techniques developed over the past decade have made cataract surgery one of the most successful procedures available for restoring quality of life to patients."

Tim Johnson, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, says cataracts cannot be made to disappear with drugs or exercises.

"Cataract surgery is most often performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia," Johnson says. "The cloudy natural lens can be replaced with a clear artificial lens to give the eye proper focusing power. In most cases, the improvement in the patient's vision is profound."

So how does a person know if he or she has a cataract?

Oetting says some people notice a gradual painless blurring of vision, double vision in one eye, or fading or yellowing of colors.

"When my older patients mention sensitivity to glare and/or bright light or trouble driving at night, I suspect a cataract," he says."

Johnson dispels the notion that a cataract has to be "ripe" before it's removed. The best time to have a cataract removed is when it starts to interfere with the things you like to do, he says.

"Cataract surgery is a great procedure, but it is still surgery," Johnson says. "If cataracts don't affect your quality of life, you may feel that surgery is not needed. The only person who can really decide when it's time to have it removed is you."

For more information, visit or call UI Health Access toll free at 800-777-8442.

-Tom Moore/Michael/Sondergard

posted: Mon Jan 5 14:25:26 2004
original URL:

last updated: 12-19-03