Seeing Is Never Easy
The eye is a complex organ, funneling light through the cornea and lens before passing information to the brain. These two components work together to focus directly on the back surface and create a clear visual picture. Both cataracts and astigmatism can affect this natural flow, inhibiting the eye’s ability to see clearly.
The cataract conundrum
Cataracts are a cloudiness of the eye’s natural lens. This lens accounts for roughly one-third of the eye’s focusing power and should be clear for light to pass through. As a cataract forms, vision often becomes like seeing through a foggy window. Colors can become muted and objects become difficult to decipher. After onset, cataracts continue to get worse over time until complete blindness sets in.
The source of cataracts
The disease is, in most cases, age-related, often appearing when patients reach somewhere between 40 and 60 years old. Small at first, cataracts slowly grow inside the lens until there’s a noticeable difference in vision. Other times, cataracts can form as the result of a traumatic injury to the eye or face. In these instances, the ailment usually worsens much more quickly.
Restoring vision lost from cataracts
At present, the only way to treat cataracts is through surgery. During the procedure, an ophthalmologist makes a tiny incision on the eye and removes the cataractous lens. To restore sight, the doctor places an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) where the natural lens used to be. This artificial lens, designed to meet the unique measurements of the patient’s eye, focuses light once more.
The cornea (or surface of the eye) makes up the remaining two-thirds of the eye’s focusing power. In a perfect eye, the cornea maintains a round shape to bend light at just the right angle. Astigmatism occurs when the cornea is irregularly shaped and unable to focus light properly on the back of the eye. When affected with astigmatism, patients often experience double vision, blurry images, and headaches.
Origins of astigmatism
Astigmatism is often present at birth but can develop later in life. The condition may also appear as the result of an ocular injury or surgery. Eye diseases like keratoconus can also cause astigmatism.
Correcting the curve
In most scenarios, astigmatism can be treated with a pair of glasses or contact lenses. LASIK surgery can also be used to reshape the cornea and treat refractive error. Astigmatism can also be corrected during cataract surgery through the use of a specific IOL.
A Toric IOL can help
During cataract surgery, the surgeon can place a Toric IOL in the eye of a patient with astigmatism. The rest of the surgical process is entirely identical. Toric IOLs account for the irregular shape of the cornea and work to account for refractive error. Individuals with astigmatism have a much higher chance of not having to wear glasses for distance vision after surgery. When planning cataract surgery, ask the physician about all the available IOL options.