If you have a cataract, your eye lens has become cloudy. It is like looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield. Things look blurry, hazy or less colorful with a cataract.
What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts?
Most age-related cataracts develop gradually. As a result, you may not notice signs or changes in your vision right away when cataracts first develop.
Cataract symptom progression
Here are some vision changes you may notice if you have a cataract:
- Having blurry vision
- Seeing double (when you see two images instead of one)
- Being extra sensitive to light
- Having trouble seeing well at night, or needing more light when you read
- Seeing bright colors as faded or yellow instead
When your eye is dilated, the pupils are wide open so the doctor can more clearly see the back of the eye. Using the slit lamp, an ophthalmoscope or both, the doctor looks for signs of cataract. Your ophthalmologist will also look for glaucoma, and examine the retina and optic nerve.
Refraction and visual acuity test
This test assesses the sharpness and clarity of your vision. Each eye is tested individually for the ability to see letters of varying sizes.
Once I have a cataract diagnosis, what should I do?
- Have an eye exam every year if you're older than 65, or every two years if younger.
- Protect your eyes from UV light by wearing sunglasses that block at least 99 percent UV and a hat.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking is a key risk factor for cataracts.
- Use brighter lights for reading and other activities. A magnifying glass may be useful, too.
- Limit driving at night once night vision, halos or glare become problems.
- Take care of any other health problems, especially diabetes.
- Get the right eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct your vision.
- When it becomes difficult to complete your regular activities, consider cataract surgery.
Make an informed decision about cataract surgery. Have a discussion with your ophthalmologist about:
- the surgery,
- preparation for and recovery after surgery,
- benefits and possible complications of cataract surgery,
- cataract surgery costs,
- other questions you have.
Do not use eye drops or other treatments that claim to dissolve or remove cataracts. There is no proven way to dissolve cataracts with eye drops. Surgery is the only way to remove cataracts.
If your cataract symptoms are not bothering you very much, you don’t have to remove a cataract. You might just need a new eyeglass prescription to help you see better. You should consider surgery when cataracts keep you from doing things you want or need to do.
How does cataract surgery work?
During cataract surgery, your eye surgeon will remove your eye’s cloudy natural lens. Then he or she will replace it with an artificial lens. This new lens is called an intraocular lens (or IOL). When you decide to have cataract surgery, your doctor will talk with you about IOLs and how they work.
People who have had cataract surgery may have their vision become hazy again years later. This is usually because the eye’s capsule has become cloudy. The capsule is the part of your eye that holds the IOL in place. Your ophthalmologist can use a laser to open the cloudy capsule and restore clear vision. This is called a capsulotomy.
Cataracts are a very common reason people lose vision, but they can be treated. You and your ophthalmologist should discuss your cataract symptoms. Together you can decide whether you are ready for cataract surgery.
Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology www.aao.org