Read more about Cataracts

A cataract is one of the most common eye conditions that usually develops with age. When we're young, we have a clear and transparent lens inside our eye, and light can pass through the lens and land at the back part of our eye and allow us to see clearly. As we get older, the color of the lens tends to change a bit, becoming yellower, denser, milkier, cloudier so now light has a harder time getting through this less transparent lens, impairing our vision and causing glare. It is a completely normal part of aging, just as our hair color changes when we age and becomes grayer. The color of the lens inside our eye also changes from a more clear and transparent to a yellowish, denser one.

Certain eye conditions accelerate the growth of a cataract, such as diabetes or having a very high minus prescription. A patient with such conditions should be examined every six months or even sooner instead of being examined every year for an annual eye exam.

What symptoms do patients with cataracts experience?

One of the symptoms patients may experience is a blur in their vision. Additionally, they will notice a dimming of their vision and need to turn on the lights more often. Additionally, they may experience double vision in one eye and may have difficulties with glare. Their vision can be reduced when they drive at night as the headlights of the car can be really bright.

When does an optometrist refer a patient with cataract to a surgeon?

Typically, when the patient is in the milder stages of their cataracts there's no need to refer the patient out for any cataract surgery evaluation. We would just suggest such patients wear UV light protection, when they go outside so that then the UV rays will not cause the cataract to increase at a faster rate.

There are two things we consider when she should refer a patient for cataract surgery. One is assessing the actual lens and comparing it to what it was before, looking at the changes. In addition, there are different types of cataracts, so you need to consider how fast the cataract is growing and whether it's dense enough to require cataract surgery. However, another important factor to consider is how a cataract affects the patient's quality of life. Some patients are less sensitive than others to the symptoms associated with cataracts. We asks our patients whether their cataracts affect their ability to do their daily tasks. If the answer is no, then we may hold off on recommending cataract surgery for them. In certain instances, however, if the lens looks like it's getting very dense, then even if my patient isn't so symptomatic, we may recommend the patient to have cataract surgery, as the longer they wait, the harder it will be to remove the cataract. It may also lead to a little bit more complications. If her patients have more severe symptoms, they are really unhappy about the loss of vision, and they want clear vision, she might refer them to cataract surgery.

How are cataracts treated?

In the most common case, the surgeon would remove the lens with the cataract and then implant an artificial lens into the eye. There are different types of implantable lenses that can be placed in the eye. In most cases, patients can already see much clearer after a couple of hours, and are really pleased with the results.

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