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Don't Rush into Cataract Surgery

People shouldn't panic and rush into surgery when cataracts are first diagnosed. In most cases, cataracts are something people can live with for a long time after diagnosis, eye experts say.

That's because cataracts, which are a clouding of the lens inside the eye, usually start small and develop slowly. The exceptions are cataracts caused by an eye injury or disease or those present at birth, which are rare.

Most people with cataracts can benefit from an annual eye exam to check eye health and determine any need for a change in prescription lenses. Cataracts do cause changes in vision, but initially glasses and contact lenses can sometimes solve the problem, according to the National Eye Institute.

Surgery is necessary only when vision reaches a point that, even with prescription lenses, a person is unable to see well enough to do the things he or she wants to do. The decision to have cataract surgery is usually made by the person in consultation with his or her eye doctor.

During surgery, the eye's lens is removed and, in almost all cases, replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). Cataract surgery is highly successful and distance vision is normally restored, although most people continue to need glasses or contact lenses to provide good vision at near or intermediate seeing distances, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Recently, multifocal implants have improved and some people are able to see near and far without corrective lenses. There is also the option of monovision--one eye focused for near and one for far--that can decrease the need for glasses after surgery. These options should be discussed with your doctor prior to surgery.

To help prevent cataracts, protect your eyes from sunlight. American Academy of Ophthalmology now recommends wearing sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat to lessen exposure to ultraviolet rays.