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Most people have heard the word “cataracts” but many people don’t know what they are. Cataracts are something that happens to everyone. I’m gettin ’em. You’re gettin’ em. Everyone’s gettin ’em. It’s kinda like gray hair: if you live long enough, you’re gettin it. But what are they?

There is a lens in the middle of the eye that’s shaped about like an M&M. It’s crystal clear when we’re born and we just look right through it. As we age, this lens just gets yellowish and hazy and eventually gets to the point where it affects our vision. So a 30 year old’s lens is hazier than a new born’s and a 60 year old’s lens is hazier than a 30 year old’s and so on and so forth.

So you don’t just wake up one day with cataracts. It’s a slow process that’s very difficult to notice yourself. It’s like dimming the room lights down real slowly and before you know it, it’s dark without you being completely aware of the change unless someone points it out to you. That’s where your family optometrist comes in. Since it’s difficult to notice the vision changes as they’re so slow, your optometrist will be able to objectively note subtle changes to your vision. Two years ago, maybe you saw a perfect, brisk 20/20 but today, while you still see 20/20, it’s a little more difficult to make out the letters and you may miss one or two. That’s the cataract making things a smudge more difficult to see. And on top of the visual affects, your optometrist will be able to view the cataract directly.

This is where dilation comes into play. I know everyone just loves being dilated and feeling like the sun is melting your retina (it isn’t, trust me), but it’s really the only way to effectively evaluate the health of the internal eye And this is exactly where the cataracts rear their ugly head; along with a multitude of other ocular health abnormalities we’ll go over later.

So you have cataracts. And now we’ve learned that’s not scary or a big deal. It puts you in great company. But now what? How do we get rid of these dadgum things? Surgery? Oh no! But there’s no need to fret. Cataract surgery is just about the easiest surgery you could ever have. You’re in and out in no time with very little down time, to boot. You’ll spend more time filling out the paperwork than you will actually under the needle (or laser as technology progresses). You may be a little groggy from the anesthesia, but otherwise no worse for the wear. You simply need to lay off any heavy lifting or prolonged bending over for small time as you heal. So no bar fights or handstands for a little while. There will also be several eye drops that you’ll become best friends with for a week, but that’s not so bad.

During the surgery, the surgeon will remove the old, yellow lens and replace it with a brand new, crystal clear, synthetic lens. Another cool thing about cataract surgery is that it’s kinda like cataract and LASIK combined. The synthetic lens that replaces your old lens will have your prescription etched into it so you’ll no longer be as reliant on glasses anymore. That’s pretty cool. You still need a pair of reading glasses, but for a large portion of people, full-time glasses isn’t necessary anymore.

So really, cataracts aren’t the end of the world after all. And cataract surgery isn’t scary at all – it’s actually pretty cool. You’ll see better and be less reliant on your glasses. And now you’ll be able to say this:

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