Your ophthalmologist tells you during your last eye exam that you have early signs of cataracts. You haven't noticed any changes in your vision, but your doctor says the symptoms will come on very slowly. When should you consider cataract surgery to replace the cloudy lenses with artificial ones? Here is how cataracts affect your vision and when you might consider the surgery.
A Slowly Growing Problem
Cataracts occur due to the formation of strands of protein in the lens of your eye. Your eye creates these strands in response to ultraviolet waves from the sun and other environmental factors. It's a defense mechanism to protect the eye from potential damage.
Initially, you won't notice the protein strands. As they accumulate, your lens develops the characteristic cloudiness associated with cataracts. Because this buildup is so slow, taking years to become noticeable even by the people closest to you, you can become accustomed to the slight changes in vision. Only when you realize how much your vision has changed does it become an annoyance.
The First Signs of Vision Change
The protein buildup in the lens changes how your eye receives light, resulting in a number of vision changes:
- Individual objects begin to look blurry. Adding more light can sometimes help you focus.
- Colors are washed out. Subtle tones are difficult to distinguish, especially in the blue spectrum. Purples and blues may look black.
- Sensitivity to light at night. The headlights of an oncoming car may blind you briefly because they appear so intense.
Lightstake on a subtle glow. People experience a halo of white light around such items as street lights.
As the cataracts grow in
When Should You Have Cataract Surgery?
Other than the changes to your vision, cataracts don't affect your health. Your doctor can replace the lens with an artificial one at any time during the life cycle of the cataract. The procedure is done as an outpatient procedure in the ophthalmologist's office and you'll be seeing clearer in a couple of days after the surgery.
The answer to when you should have the surgery comes down to how much your vision change is affecting your enjoyment of life:
- Do you feel unsafe driving at night because of the glare of oncoming headlights?
- Is it getting too difficult to read a bedtime story to your children or grandchildren?
- Are you not able to enjoy the color differences of the flowers in your garden?
- Is it hard for you to work in most places because there isn't enough light?
When your vision loss prevents you from having these normal life experiences, it's time for the surgery. Even if you're only beginning to notice the vision changes, timing of certain events in your life may make it a good idea to have the procedure such as:
- You're planning a long vacation out of the country.
- You're starting a new job, project or hobby.
Improve your experience of these events by having the cataract surgery so you can apply the best vision you can offer to each one.
Pay attention to how your vision changes are affecting your everyday life. When the world around you takes on a fuzzy, washed out look, it's time to have the surgery and get a clearer view of the world back into your life. To learn more, speak with someone like Thomas L. Lawrence, M.D., P.A.