Cataract refers to a cloudy area in the lens of the eye, which blocks the passage of light to the retina, and in so doing causes vision problems. It is generally a slow progressive condition, which causes slow deterioration of vision. It can be potentially blinding if left untreated. Both eyes are usually affected, but one eye is almost always affected earlier than the other.
What causes Cataract?
• Aging - by far the most common cause of cataract.
• Eye injury
• Radiation exposure
• Corticosteroids and some other medication
• Some eye diseases may increase risk of cataract formation
• Smoking and ultraviolet light exposure
What are the Symptoms of Cataracts?
Cataracts are painless, and usually develop slowly, so you may notice that your vision is gradually deteriorating over time. Some of the usual complaints include:
• Cloudy, fuzzy vision
• Seeing a glare from bright lights, particularly at night. This often makes driving at night particularly difficult.
• You may need frequent changes in your prescription glasses
• Double vision
How is Cataract Diagnosed and Treated?
Your doctor or ophthalmologist can tell whether or not you have cataract by examining your eyes. If your cataract is mild, treatment is often not necessary. However, if your cataract is cloudy enough to significantly affect your vision, and in doing so, significantly affect your ability to perform activities that are important to you, then you should consider speaking to your doctor about cataract surgery.
You may also need other eye tests to rule out other eye conditions which may be the cause of your vision problems.
Cataract surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis under local anaesthesia, with mild sedation. It involves taking out the cataract lens and replacing it with a plastic lens (an intraocular lens implant). The lens implanted will determine whether or not you need glasses after cataract surgery, and if you do, what the prescription of your glasses should be. Most patients have lens implants that correct distance vision, and so reading glasses are often still required.
What to Expect and How Should You Prepare For It?
• You will need to be fasted about 8 hours prior to surgery, according to your doctor's instructions.
• Avoid wearing eye makeup.
• Bring a list of all your regular medications, as your surgeon or anaesthetist will need to know what type of medication you are on.
• Arrange for someone to drive you to and from the hospital.
• Surgery is typically performed under local anaesthesia, meaning that you will be awake during the surgery. You can expect to see bright lights and feel some eye pressure during the procedure.
• After surgery, your surgeon will generally put on an eye shield over the eye that has just been operated on.
• Expect to feel some irritation in the eye following surgery.
• You will be given instructions on how and when to start prescribed eye drops.
• You will be asked to go back for regular check ups following the surgery to ensure that your eye is healing well and that no complications have developed.
• You should avoid strenuous activities for a week or more, depending on the advice of your ophthalmologist.
Image: By Rakesh Ahuja, MD (Personal collection) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
The article above is meant to provide general information and does not replace a doctor's consultation.
Please see your doctor for professional advice.