You may not notice any symptoms with early cataracts. As a cataract becomes more advanced, decrease in clarity of vision, not fully correctable with glasses, is noticed. There is a loss of contrast sensitivity, so that shadows and color vision are less vivid. Disturbing glare may be noted as light is into the eye scattered by the cataract. Haloes may be observed around lights. Night vision will be diminished. In certain types of cataracts, double vision may be noted in the affected eye. Some patients note that they require frequent changes in their eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions and may be aware that their near vision is improving as their distance vision declines.
A cataract does not routinely cause discomfort or pain in the eye or alter the external appearance of the eye.
What are the signs of cataracts?
Family members of a person affected by cataracts in both eyes may notice that he or she appears not to be seeing as well as previously. The eye will appear normal to the untrained observer, unless the cataract is mature and white. In that situation, the pupil of the eye, which normally appears black, will look grey or white to the observer.
The examining physician will find diminished visual acuity in the affected eye or eyes. This visual loss is not fully corrected by a change in the glasses. The lens of the eye can be easily examined by an ophthalmologist and the changes in the lens characteristic of cataract can actually be seen using a slit lamp, which is an illuminating and magnifying device used to painlessly examine the structures within the front of the eye, including the lens.
What types of specialists treat cataracts?
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have specialized in the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of eye disease. Ophthalmologists both diagnose cataracts and surgically remove cataracts when indicated.
How do health-care professionals diagnose cataracts?
Cataracts are relatively simple to diagnose by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist during a routine eye examination. It is important, when making the diagnosis of cataract, to also examine the entire eye for evidence of any other eye disease which may be compromising the vision. In addition to taking a medical and ocular history and visual acuity test, the ophthalmologist will check eye movements and pupillary responses, measure the pressure inside the eyes and examine the both front and back of the eyes after the pupils have been dilated with drops.
What is the treatment for cataracts?
People with early cataract will find that changing their glasses, using sunglasses
Cataracts usually do not harm your eye, so you can have surgery when it is convenient for you and when the cataract interferes with your daily activities. Once you understand the benefits and risks of surgery, you can make an informed decision about whether cataract surgery is right for you. In most cases, delaying cataract surgery will not cause long-term damage to your eye or make the surgery more difficult.
If the eye has other diseases that have caused visual loss such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, or optic nerve damage from glaucoma or other disease, cataract surgery may not improve the vision.
Occasionally, your doctor may recommend removal of a cataract if it prevents the diagnosis or treatment of another eye problem, such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.
If both eyes have cataracts and surgery is agreed upon, the surgery on the second eye is generally planned at least a week after the first eye. There is usually no harm in waiting a much longer period of time between the two eye operations.
Because the lens of the eye is necessary to accurately focus light onto the retinal surface and removal of the cataract involves removal of the lens, modern cataract surgery combines removal of the lens and placement of a new artificial lens into the eye. Measurements for the size, shape, and power of this lens will be taken prior to the surgery so that the specific lens can be available for implantation at the time of surgery.
More than 3 million cataract surgeries are performed annually in the United States. Cataract surgery is extremely safe and effective, improving vision in the vast majority of patients.
to decrease glare and having better lighting to read can significantly alleviate their symptoms. Magnifying lenses for close work and reading fine print may also be helpful.
Many cataracts are not bothersome, causing few symptoms. In that situation, no surgical treatment is necessary. However, the only true treatment for cataract is surgical removal of the cloudy lens. Surgery is suggested if the patient loses the ability to perform necessary activities of everyday life, such as driving, reading, or looking at computer or video screens, even with glasses, and there is the expectation that vision will improve as a result of the surgery.
Patients’ responses to the presence of a cataract vary. A cataract in only one eye may be disturbing to a particular patient and may not cause significant symptoms in another patient.
What are risks of the different types of cataract surgery? How long is the recovery after cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia. Some sedation is ordinarily given intravenously just before the beginning of the surgery, which usually takes under a half-hour.
Most cataract surgery today is done through a small incision by phacoemulsification or by other means through a slightly larger incision. In more than 95% of cases, a new lens, known as a lens implant or intraocular lens is inserted at the same time as the cataract removal. You will not feel the new lens within the eye. Most patients need to limit their activities for only a few days and recovery time is brief.
Although modern techniques have made cataract surgery quite safe, complications can occur with any surgical procedure, including cataract extraction. These include hemorrhage, infection, loss of a portion of the cataract into the eye, displacement of the intraocular lens, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. Fortunately, all these complications are rare and usually can be managed. Blindness is a rare complication of cataract surgery.
Modern cataract surgery involves leaving a portion of the lens capsule within the eye to support the intraocular lens. This capsule may become cloudy at a later time, necessitating opening of the capsule through the use of a laser. This outpatient procedure is called a YAG laser capsulotomy. It is painless and rarely results in increased eye pressure or other eye problems.