Is your vision blurry, distorted, or making you feel like you’re looking through a foggy window? These are some of the common signs of having cataracts.
Cataracts are a prevalent eye condition that starts developing in your forties or fifties. They often develop slowly over time and are hard to notice initially, but they can significantly impair your vision and even cause blindness.
The good news is that if you suffer vision loss, you can regain it by having cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is also the only way to treat cataracts effectively.
But you may not need cataract surgery right away if you’ve just been diagnosed with cataracts. To understand why, you should first know what cataracts are, how they affect your vision, and how they’re treated. Keep reading to learn more about cataracts and the best time to have them removed!
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts occur when your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy. Proteins on the lens begin to clump together over time, leading to more difficulty seeing clearly.
One of the main reasons that cataracts develop is aging and getting older. Certain cataracts are also associated with a traumatic eye injury and diabetes.
But the most common type of cataract is age-related and forms very slowly. For many patients, this can take years or even decades.
During this time, your natural lens becomes cloudier and cloudier, making it more challenging to see. With a cataract, the once clear and transparent lens is now cloudy and opaque. You’ll also start noticing more symptoms that make seeing things around you more difficult.
Symptoms of Having a Cataract
Many people with cataracts don’t realize they have them at first. Your vision may stay the same, only worsening as a cataract slowly continues growing and takes over your lens.
Symptoms also appear gradually and worsen over time. Because symptoms can take a long time to develop, you may not even notice when they become more severe. These symptoms include:
- Blurry vision
- Halos around light sources
- Light sensitivity
- Poor night vision
- Decreased ability to see any contrast between colors
- Double vision
- Seeing things that are white as muddy or faded
If you experience several of these symptoms, no matter how minor, you should see your eye doctor. Ideally, you should see an eye doctor regularly once you turn 40.
If you do develop cataracts, your eye doctor at New England Eye Center can diagnose them in the early stages. An early cataract diagnosis will allow your ophthalmologist to monitor their progression.
You’ll also better understand how your cataracts affect your vision as they develop. Your eye doctor will be able to make suggestions of ways to improve your vision temporarily. These may include changing your prescription for glasses or contacts or telling you to use more light when completing fine-focus tasks.
Although you can temporarily treat cataracts, the only way to treat them is having cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed medical procedure you can undergo.
It’s highly effective and low-risk because it’s performed so often. The procedure involves removing the natural lens where the cataract formed.
Removing your cataracts restores your vision even if you’ve suffered significant vision loss because of them. Cataract surgery is a simple outpatient procedure.
As an outpatient procedure, you can go home once it’s over. If you have cataracts in both eyes, you’ll have them removed separately.
You’ll first have one eye treated, and once it’s finished healing, you’ll have the second cataract removed. The time between procedures is usually several weeks to allow enough time for healing.
During cataract surgery, your surgeon will create a small incision in the eye. After making the incision, they insert an instrument through that incision to break apart your natural lens.
After gently breaking apart the lens, they suck out the broken pieces of the lens with a vacuum-like device through the same incision. Once the lens is removed, an artificial lens called an IOL takes its place.
Cataract surgery is complete after inserting the IOL through the incision and positioning it inside the eye. No sutures are needed since the incision is small enough to heal on its own.
When Should You Get Cataract Surgery?
While cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure, you may not necessarily need it after finding out you have cataracts. Remember that cataracts can take many years to develop fully.
Due to this, it could be a long time before you start experiencing cataract symptoms. Some people may never even need cataract surgery! But, you should have cataract surgery when your cataracts affect your quality of life.
What does that mean? While your eye doctor can help determine how severe your cataract symptoms are, only you can decide when your cataracts have started affecting your quality of life.
It may seem challenging to know when this is because symptoms develop so slowly. A few key things to look out for can let you know how severe your symptoms are.
Don’t Mistake Poor Night Vision for Presbyopia
One common cataract symptom, poor night vision, can sometimes be mistaken for presbyopia. It makes sense because presbyopia is also common in adults over 40.
The age-related eye condition makes it harder to focus up close. You may find you have trouble reading and assume it’s due to presbyopia.
But if reading glasses don’t help and you need a direct light to read, that’s a sign that your issue is mainly due to your cataracts instead of presbyopia.
You’re Struggling More When Driving at Night
Because of poor night vision, glare, and light sensitivity, patients with advanced cataracts also struggle with driving at night. The glare from headlights can be blinding.
With decreased night vision, it can be hard to see. If you find driving after dark challenging, it’s a sure sign it’s time to consider getting cataract surgery.
Your Daily Activities Have Suddenly Become Much Harder
Are you finding daily activities like reading, driving, cooking, and cleaning are more challenging because of your cataracts? If you can no longer participate in even the simplest daily activities, it’s time to consider having cataract surgery.
Talk to your eye doctor and ask for their advice if you’re unsure. Although it’s your choice when to have cataract surgery, waiting too long is never a good idea.
Don’t wait until your vision is so bad you can barely see. Talk to your eye doctor as soon as you feel your cataracts are beginning to affect your life.
Do you think it may be time to discuss cataract surgery? Schedule your cataract consultation at New England Eye Center in Boston, MA, now!