If you or a loved one are concerned about developing cataracts then it’s natural to have a few questions about them. Despite how common they are among the elderly, cataracts continue to be a mystery for a lot of people.
So, why do cataracts happen? Can they be prevented? What does vision look like with cataracts? Is surgery necessary?
Find the answers to some of your questions here.
Cataracts are a pretty common natural condition in older adults. They develop as the proteins in the eye clump together and lead to a hardening and yellowing of the eye’s lens.
This hardening and yellowing can lead to obstruction of normal vision. Often advanced cataracts are visible in the eye, in the form of a foggy, cloudy-looking spotting covering the pupil.
A normal, healthy lens is transparent, allowing light to pass through it for clear vision.
Before asking the question ‘what does vision look like with cataracts?’, it’s important to know that, for most people, they develop pretty slowly and are not always immediately perceptible. There are different types of cataracts, each with slightly different symptoms.
Currently, the only way to treat cataracts is with cataract surgery, which is a painless, quick and straightforward minor surgical procedure. It must be stated that cataracts become progressively worse over time, and if not treated, will severely affect your vision.
The vast majority of cataract cases are related to the normal ageing process. There are, however, some rare cases of children having congenital cataracts and babies being born with them. They can also develop as a result of eye injury, acute myopia, illnesses such as diabetes, and eye surgery.
There are some risk factors to be avoided, as they are known to contribute to speeding up the development of cataracts. They include:
In the early stages of cataracts, changes to your sight will most likely be very subtle and almost imperceptible.
As time goes on, however, you will begin to see a slow deterioration of your vision.
Many people don’t even realise that they have cataracts until they attend a routine eye check at the optician.
So, what does vision look like with cataracts? Here are some of the most common symptoms and tell-tale signs:
One of the most typical symptoms of cataracts is clouded vision, giving a foggy outlook on the world.
Double vision, when you see two of the same things, (sometimes even with just one eye open) very often accompanies that clouded vision and a milky spotted appearance in the pupil of the eye.
The blurring of your vision will make it harder for you to distinguish fine detail. You may also find it increasingly difficult to recognise faces from afar and driving at night will be harder.
As cataracts develop in the early stages, you may find that you need to change your glasses prescription more rapidly than before. This should be a tell-tale sign, as the average person only needs to change their prescription every couple of years. If you need to change it every few months, that could indicate the presence of cataracts.
You may even find that your close-up eyesight temporarily improves and you no longer need your reading glasses. That’s because the cataract acts as a stronger lens.
This phenomenon is called ‘second sight’. Be aware, though, that as the cataract progresses, the improved vision disappears and your eyesight will worsen again.
The only way to recuperate your vision is by cataract surgery.
If you are in the early stages of having cataracts, then you’ll likely notice the need for brighter lighting, as the cloudiness in your eye is blocking light from entering the retina.
You may notice this, particularly when reading indoors, when trying to read coloured text against a coloured background, or when reading fine print.
Cataracts can provoke a sensitivity to light and glare, particularly when in the advanced stages.
This can cause problems when driving as the headlights of oncoming cars or street lights may feel dazzling. Indoor lighting may seem too bright or appear to have a halo-like ring of light around them.
Part of the reason why driving at night becomes so difficult with cataracts is that your eyes and eyesight may darken to different shades of yellow, grey, and black.
This is because of the presence of a yellow-brownish tinge in the eye’s lens, which acts as a filter to certain wavelengths on the colour spectrum, leading to them looking faded and dull. Blues and purples may also be difficult to detect.
Many people comment on how much more vibrant colours seem after having had cataract surgery.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may have cataracts, you should visit a local optician, they have optometrists in each store, who can easily identify cataracts. Most cases of cataracts are detected in routine eye check-ups, so it’s important to get your eyes checked every year or when you’ve experienced a change in your vision. Your optician/optometrist will be able to give you advice as to the next steps and whether you need surgery.
If you are experiencing flashing lights in your sight, complete vision loss, or spots and specks in your vision, seek medical advice straight away – again your local optician can perform an eye check for these symptoms and refer to you an eye hospital, if required. These are NOT symptoms of cataracts and should be assessed urgently.
If you have advanced cataracts that can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, you will need surgery to remove them.
The surgery removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial lens. The artificial lens also has the added benefit of being fitted with your prescription, either for long distance or reading. Most patients choose to have a lens prescription that helps them see in the distance, and then just need glasses for reading.
Cataract surgery is nothing to worry about – it is a quick and painless microsurgery, and you will be treated as an outpatient. Local anaesthetic is administered via drops, and surgery takes around 10 minutes on each eye. You should recover full vision within just a few days, so you can get back to driving and enjoy seeing the world again.
Hopefully, this information has helped to answer some of those earlier questions: what does vision look like with cataracts, why do they happen, and how can they be treated? If you find that you still have some unresolved doubts, or would like to speak to someone about specific symptoms or treatment, don’t hesitate to contact us at SpaMedica today.
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