What is a cataract?
A cataract, by definition, is a change in the optical clarity of the crystalline lens inside the eye. This lens can change in multiple ways and for multiple reasons. There are many analogies to describe a cataract; one is the convertible analogy.
Imagine you bought a brand new convertible with a plastic rear window that can fold in. After 65 years, that window becomes yellow and cloudy, covered in smudges and you can no longer see through it safely. The fix is easy, you cut out the window and replace it with a new one!
Cataracts are the #1 cause of blindness worldwide. Cataracts are an inevitable part of life; if you live long enough you will get cataracts. However, cataracts are treatable. The technology has come a long way since the 1950’s, and in the last decade alone, there have been major advances in both surgical methods and implant options.
Symptoms of Cataracts
There are multiple symptoms associated with cataracts, that usually start slowly and progress over the years. The major symptoms are:
- Reduced acuity
- Night time glare
- Halos around lights
- Decreased vision in low light
- Reduced color sensations
Treatment: When & How?
When patients hear they have cataracts, the immediate feeling is dread...“My mother had cataracts! I can’t have them.” At first it can be scary, but your optometrist will take time to explain that it is normal and what your treatment options are. Many times, education and monitoring are the best short-term solutions, and surgery will be coordinated when the patient is ready.
Most patients are between 62-66 when they elect to have cataract surgery. Unfortunately, many patients wait until their late 70’s or early 80’s and are missing out on a decade or more of clear vision. If a patient has bad cataracts, but no symptoms, they can avoid the surgery. On the other hand, if they have mild cataracts but bad symptoms, they may choose to have the surgery early. The decision is dependent on the patient and your optometrist will use his experience and knowledge to help you determine when is the best time (and who is the best surgeon).
Special Tests for Cataracts
There are no special tests to evaluate cataracts; most optometrists can determine this based on symptoms and a brief microscopic exam. There are special tests prior to surgery that the surgeon will use to evaluate the axial length of the eye, the thickness of the cataract, and to determine the best intraocular lens implant.
Be sure to visit your eye doctor annually to stay on top of conditions like Cataracts. If you're not convinced you need an eye exam, our eBook, 6 Eye-Opening Facts That Will Have You Booking an Eye Exam will change your mind!