When is the right time for cataract surgery?
If you’ve noticed your vision has become cloudy or blurry, you may have cataracts. Although a normal part of aging, the change to your sight can be frustrating.
Fortunately, you no longer have to delay surgery to fix cataracts. While doctors used to recommend waiting, that is no longer necessary.
“Until recently, patients were often advised to wait until a cataract was ‘ripe,’ or mature enough to be easily removed from the surface of the eye,” Schwartz Laser Eye Center says. “Now cataracts can be removed at any stage of development.”
What are cataracts?
Around age 40, proteins in your eye lenses begin to break down, causing clumping that eventually prevents light from passing through parts of your lenses. By age 60, most people have clouding.
“It is like looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield,” the American Academy of Ophthalmology says. “Things look blurry, hazy or less colorful with a cataract.”
Risk factors for developing cataracts include having a family history of cataracts, having medical problems such as diabetes, smoking, having a previous eye injury or surgery, spending a lot of time in the sun, or taking medications such as corticosteroids.
The good news is cataracts develop gradually, so you can take steps to slow them even more.
“Protecting your eyes from sunlight is the best way to do this,” the AAO says. “Wear sunglasses that screen out the sun’s ultraviolet light rays. You may also wear regular eyeglasses that have a clear, anti-UV coating.”
What to do if you have cataracts
When cataracts begin affecting your vision, the decision to have surgery is usually fairly easy. Gone are the days when the surgery required a hospital stay and long recovery. With modern medical technologies, you can opt for a same-day procedure performed with local anesthesia, and your vision can return to normal within days.
So, how do you know if you need surgery?
An early diagnosis gives you and your ophthalmologist time to determine how severe your cataracts are and how quickly they’re developing. If you have few side effects, you can skip surgery — as long as you don’t wait too long.
“As a cataract develops beyond the ‘ripe’ stage, it becomes harder, making it more difficult to remove in a surgical procedure,” Schwartz Laser Eye Center says. “Left untreated long enough, cataracts can inflame the eye or cause elevated eye pressure. High intraocular pressure often leads to glaucoma, the serious condition that damages the optic nerve and may result in total loss of vision.”
Because cataracts develop slowly, your doctor may ask if they are affecting your quality of life to determine if surgery is necessary. Here are a few issues to consider, according to Healthline:
- Light sensitivity, especially from the glare of bright lights
- Difficulty with nighttime driving
- Vision halos
- The need for stronger glasses
- Seeing a yellow tint on everything
- Losing your ability to tell the difference between colors as your vision yellows
- Seeing double so one image looks like two
If cataracts are affecting your day-to-day living, you and your doctor may decide to move forward with surgery.
Whether you’re unsure if you have cataracts or need to determine the next step, visit Schwartz Laser Eye Center for more information and to make an appointment with an experienced eye care professional.