Inside our eye we have a natural lens which works like a camera lens, focusing the light on to the retina for us to see clearly. The natural lens is clear and transparent, but as we age it slowly becomes cloudy and losses its transparency. This clouding of the clear natural lens is called cataract.
Cataract usually develops so slowly that you might not have any symptoms initially. But overtime, as cataract grows, you will start to notice symptoms such as your vision getting misty, blurry or dull, you cannot see well at night, you may find lamps, sunlight or vehicle headlights too glaring, halos around lights, seeing double, you have to change your glass prescription often or you feel like your glasses are dirty and need cleaning. In due course cataract will interfere with your routine activities like reading, watching television and driving, eventually leading to treatable vision loss.
Cataract development is a part of the normal aging process so, we all develop cataract as we get older. Around the age of 40 years, the normal lens protein starts to break down, but the cataract develops in later adult life, but it can also occur at a younger age, where it may be related to previous eye injury or surgery, certain medical conditions (e.g., diabetes), certain medications (e.g. steroid), smoking, prolonged exposure to sunlight. No matter what type of cataract you have, the treatment is inevitably surgery, but not everyone who develops a cataract requires treatment.
The only permanent treatment for cataract is surgery. Glasses, tablets or drops do not cure cataract. By surgery, the cloudy lens in removed and replaced with an artificial plastic lens, called as intraocular lens (IOL), which does not require changing once implanted. With advancement in surgical technique, cataract surgery can be performed successfully at any stage of cataract development, like when it affects your vision, and you want to do something about it.
Cataract surgery is the only way to get rid of a cataract, but you may not require surgery if it does not affect your vision. At the early stage of cataract, you may be able to overcome the effect of cataract by using brighter or less bright light depending on the type of cataract and changing your glass prescription frequently. But unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to stop cataract from getting worse and eventually you will need cataract surgery to improve your vision.
During your initial clinic visit, the doctor will discuss with you about your present eye problems, any other previous eye ailments and your general health to assess your fitness for cataract surgery. Tests will be carried out to check your vision and measure your eye with special equipments, which helps the doctor to choose a correct strength intraocular lens (IOL) to implant into your eye. You should make your ophthalmologist aware of any medication you are taking, this will help them assess your risk of complications due to cataract surgery. Also if you are a contact lens wearer, please let the doctor know.
Drops will be instilled to enlarge your pupil, to examine the back of your eye. These drops will blur your vision for a few hours, for this reason you are advised not to drive back after an eye clinic appointment.
Yes, please tell your ophthalmologist about any eye surgery, you underwent previously, including the Laser eye surgery (eg- LASIK) in the past to avoid wearing glasses, as Laser eye surgery interferes with the calculations to choose the correct intraocular lens to implant during cataract surgery. Even after the adjustments made for the previous Laser eye surgery, it becomes more difficult to predict the correct intraocular lens implant and so there is a risk of ending up more or less than the targeted power after the cataract surgery, but corrective options are available after the cataract surgery if it happens.