Questions from patients about this topic most often are related to what are cataracts, when to have cataract surgery, and what is the likelihood of a good outcome.
Inside the eye there is a lens that helps focus images of what you are looking at. A cataract is a cloudiness of this lens, and as its clarity is lost vision deteriorates. Cataract surgery entails the removal of your cloudy, natural lens material, and the replacement of it with a crystal clear implant which permanently remains within the eye. Basically surgery is indicated when either one of two events occur. The first is if the cataract itself is a threat to the health of the eye. This can happen for a number of reasons such as the lens becoming mature or if the cataract precludes the evaluation or treatment of another ocular conditions such as diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration. To optimally manage these problems you need to see clearly into the back of the eye and if a cataract is significant this can become difficult or impossible. In my practice 5% of the patients who I recommend having surgery are in this category. The other 95% have surgery because their vision is keeping them from doing what they want to do. This may be driving a car at night, reading small print, or watching TV. If you have a cataract and you do not fall into either of the above categories it is reasonable to postpone the surgery. Many patients in their later decades develop cataracts and often the surgery is not needed as their vision is not significantly affected and the cataract itself is not a risk to the well being of the eye.
After surgery most individuals do well and are pleased with their decision. The cataract operation as it is currently performed has a high success rate, is safe, and most patients do not associate their surgery with a significant amount of discomfort.
The following sites give more information about what cataracts are, when to have surgery, and expected outcomes. Common questions are addressed, and the second site has a video of a cataract operation.
The National Eye Institute has pamphlets on common ocular conditions and their one on cataracts provides an easily read synopsis. It provides very basic information about what the disease is, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and a short reference section to other sites.
For more extensive information visit the Eye Health section devoted to Cataracts, which is sponsored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. There is information about symptoms, diagnosis, indications for surgery, and two videos. The first video is an animated operation, and the second is the real thing as seen through the operating microscope on an actual patient.