I’m sure many of you can relate to the following…..
You have noticed a slow and gradual deterioration in your vision since last year’s check-up but put it down to either needing an updated prescription, or simply some new lenses as your current ones are dirty and scratched. Whilst one half of you feels a excited about the prospect of getting to choose a new style of frame, the other half of you may feel a little apprehensive about another eye test. Once the optometrist examination is complete, you are told by your optometrist ‘You have cataract and need to see an eye specialist to discuss your options and removal. New glasses won’t really help’. What is a cataract and what does this mean you may ask? Your mind is suddenly bombarded with a million and one questions.
Let us help you understand more. Commonly ask questions include:
What is cataract?
A normal young healthy lens is clear and free from impurities and opacities. As we age a milky substance builds up in the lens causing it to become cloudy. This is a cataract. It makes your vision foggy and you unable to see things in clear detail. Most people will develop a cataract at some stage in their later life. The exact age is different for each individual.
Cloudy vision is not the only symptom of cataract. You may also experience the following:
- Glare sensitivity and haloes around lights, particularly at night.
- Poor colour vision and reduced contrast sensitivity. You may notice things appear dull, washed out or less vivid than you recall in your younger years. It may be difficult for you to distinguish between objects and their background.
- Ghosting or double vision in the affected eye
- Difficulty reading. Have you found yourself reaching for the kindle to enlarge the font size?
Risk factors for cataract
- Increasing Age
- Smoking and alcohol
- Trauma to the eye
- Excessive sun exposure
- Use of steroid medications (For example, for auto-immune conditions). People who use steroids typically develop cataract at a much younger age.
How do I know when I need to have my cataracts removed?
Cataracts often start off as very mild. In the early stages most people won’t even be aware they have one. As time goes on the cataract will mature. The rate at which this occurs is different for everybody. For some people, their cataract remains stable for many years or only progresses at a very slow rate. For others, the deterioration is much faster and they are back to see their optometrist within 6 months. Your optometrist will let you know when it is time to be referred to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) to have your cataract extracted. Often, this is when your spectacle prescription is changing in large numbers, or when your vision can no longer be corrected with glasses and you may be bordering the legal driving limit.
Do I have to wait until my optometrist decides to refer me to an ophthalmologist?
Whilst most people prefer to wait until their cataract matures before proceeding down the path of surgery, some cataracts (even in their mild form) cause people a lot of grief. Simple everyday activities such as reading and recognising people’s faces can be affected. If you feel your day-to-day life is becoming increasingly difficult as a result of your cataract you do not have to wait. You may request a referral to your ophthalmologist at any stage. It is important to remember not to wait too long before accepting seeing an ophthalmologist about your cataract. Cataracts not only cause the patient blurry vision but they also make it more difficult for your optometrist to see to the back of your eye, the retina. Cataracts can obscure the view of your optic nerve and macula therefore making it harder to diagnose other conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Both eyes, or one eye?
Cataracts can develop in both eyes or just one eye. If you have a cataract in both eyes, they may mature at the same rate or one eye may progress faster than the other.
If you can relate to any of the above information, it is recommended you arrange to get your eyes tested by your optometrist. Your eyes are precious and an annual check-up, or earlier is you notice any visual changes, is the best way to maintain your optimum eye health.
For more information on Cataract Surgery please click here