1. What is a cataract?
2. Stages of cataract
3. Symptoms of cataract
4. How does cataract cause blurring of vision?
5. Do I need surgery if I have cataract?
6. When should I have cataract surgery?
A cataract is a loss of transparency or clouding of the lens of the eye. The normal lens is crystal clear. As one age, chemical changes occur in the lens that makes it less transparent.
Cataracts can be mild, moderate or severe. In early cases, the lens clouding may be very mild, so vision is hardly affected and there are no symptoms. As the cloudiness increases, vision will be more affected. In severe cases, there is a total loss of transparency and the lens is opaque and white, and vision is severely impaired.
Cataracts cause a progressive, painless blurring of vision. Other symptoms include glare (particularly at night or in dim lighting), a need for frequent eyeglass prescription change, a change in color perception and less commonly, doubling of the image in the affected eye. In some cases, cataract causes an improvement in near vision, or a decrease in dependence on reading glasses, giving a false impression that one’s vision is improving with age.
Your eye functions like a camera. Light rays passing through the eye are focussed by the lens onto the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. Similar to the camera film, the retina allows the image to be “seen” by the brain. When a cataract is present, the passage of light through the lens is blocked or scattered, and the light rays do not fall precisely on the retina, causing blurring of vision.
It depends on how the cataract is affecting your vision and visual needs. In its early stages, when visual blurring is mild, surgery is usually not required. In cases where blurring is significant enough to affect your activities of daily, then cataract surgery is recommended.
The decision-making process will involve you, the patient (your lifestyle, expectations and visual needs) and your eye doctor.
It is best not to wait for the cataract to be too dense, mature or opaque before doing surgery, as complications including eye pain, redness and increase in eye pressure (phacomorphic or phacolytic glaucoma) can occur, and any surgery performed would be technically more challenging for the surgeon, with greater risks involved. Recovery from complicated cataract surgery is often prolonged.
With current advancements in cataract surgery, recovery from routine surgery is quick and painless, and the results are excellent. More patients are now opting for surgery at an earlier stage and at a younger age.