Cataracts form when the clear lens inside our eye becomes cloudy or misty. This due to a natural breakdown of proteins of the lens. It is a gradual process that usually occurs as we get older. It is totally normal, much like getting grey hair or wrinkles with time and it is NOT painful. Most of the time, we are unaware that cataracts have even developed until it starts to impact our vision or is picked up routinely by your optometrist.
Why do Cataracts Occur?
The main cause is ageing. With time, the proteins in the lens begin to breakdown and clump together, clouding areas within the lens.
Cataracts commonly develop in both eyes, but usually not at the same rate, so one eye may become affected more than the other. This can cause a difference in vision between the eyes. Cataracts affect men and women equally.
Cataracts can also occur to younger people as well. Some other reasons for cataract development are:
- Due to an eye injury/trauma (forceful blow to the eye)
- Taking certain medications (ie, warfarin/coumadin, plaquenil/hydroxycholorquine)
- Longterm corticosteroid use (oral medications or inhalers)
- Excessive UV/sunlight exposure
- High blood pressure
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Previous eye surgery
- Previous eye inflammation
You can also be born with Cataracts:
Some newborns can be born with cataracts, or they can also develop during childhood. This is known as Congenital Cataracts.
It can be due to genetics or linked with an infection/trauma while the baby is still inside the womb.
Certain conditions can also cause cataract development:
- Neurofibromatosis type 2
How do Cataracts Affect my Vision?
With time, As the cataract continues to develop, the protein clumping spreads throughout the lens, making the vision more and more misty/foggy.
You may notice some of the changes happening to your vision:
- Cloudy/blurry/hazy vision
- Night vision feels worse
- Car headlights/streetlights become dazzling
- Seeing halos around lights
- Larger and more frequent changes in your eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Difficulty moving from shade to sunlit areas
- Double vision in one eye only
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your Eye Doctor.
How Can I Prevent Cataracts?
There are different supplements/vitamins on the market which claim to help prevent or take away the development of cataract and some eye drops have also been marketed as a cure. THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST THAT THESE CAN PREVENT OR TREAT CATARACTS.
However, there are some strategies that may help:
- Manage any health problems i.e. Strict control of diabetes, blood pressure etc. and work out
- Healthy diet which includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. This will increase your intake of antioxidants which fight the protein breakdown of your lens.
- UV protection.
- UVA and UVB protection sunglasses, and a hat are always a great idea. The accumulation of UV damage occurs from a young age, so starting this habit early will help with cataract development later in life.
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Quit smoking
- Reduce Stress
- Have regular eye examinations
Can I drive if I have Cataracts?
If you have been told you have cataracts, you may continue to drive if you still meet the vision standards for driving set up by the Ministry of Transportation. Your optometrist will be able to tell you if you meet these standards.
How Do You Cure Cataracts?
The only “cure” for cataracts, is cataract surgery.
If your cataracts start to affect you daily life (i.e. driving, reading, glare) and your Eye Doctor cannot improve your vision any longer with glasses/contacts, they will refer you to an Ophthalmologist for cataract surgery.
What does Cataract Surgery Involve?
Cataract surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a clear plastic one. The results after cataract surgery can be phenomenal! Cataract surgery is almost like having a dirty window and then replacing that dirty window with a brand new window! Your vision is crisper and brighter and with all this wonderful new technology available to us, you may not even require glasses anymore either.
Cataract surgery is the most common eye surgery done worldwide and there is minimal discomfort from the procedure itself. The surgeons are highly skilled and make sure that you are as comfortable as possible while doing the procedure. At Empire Eyewear, Dr. Samar Kafeel and Dr. Anisa Jeewa work closely with highly reputable Surgeons to ensure you have the best care possible.
Most cataract procedures are done using local anaesthetic, meaning a freezing drop is added to you eye to numb it. Generally, you will be awake during the procedure and the Doctor will make sure you are comfortable. You will be able to hear the Ophthalmologist explaining what they are doing, and you may see some fuzzy movements around your eye. The surgery usually takes 15-45minutes.
Cataract procedure is a same day operation and you are able to go home after the Doctor has cleared you. You will require a driver to take you home as you are not allowed to drive after your surgery.
If you have cataracts in both eyes, usually surgery will be carried out on one eye at a time. You may wait 1 month or longer to have the other cataract removed.
If you wear contact lenses, we recommend to leave your contacts out for 1 week before your visit to the Ophthalmologist. Important measurements are taken from the surface of you eye during your appointment and contacts may affect the accuracy of these measurements.
What are the Risks of Cataract Surgery?
As with every surgery, there is some risk involved. Fortunately, the surgery outcome is highly successful (approx. 90% success rate!)
Some risks that can occur:
- Eye infection
- Bleeding in the eye
- Eye Inflammation
- Macular Edema (swelling of the back of your eye)
- Retinal Detachment
- Droopy Eyelid (ptosis)
- Pain that does not improve
- Vision Loss
- Increased eye pressure (Ocular Hypertension)
- Posterior Capsule Opacity (PCO)
- The new lens may become shift out of position, dislocated
This seems like a lot of risks, but really the surgery success rate is amazing and some of these risks listed are not at all sight threatening.
What Happens If Cataracts are Left Untreated?
If the cataracts are not interfering with your day to day life, it is fine to leave the cataract for the time being. However, in most cases, cataracts will continue to worsen with time, causing you vision to get worse. It can affect your driving ability (which can be very dangerous for you and for others!) and can overall affect your quality of life.
It is possible to become LEGALLY BLIND from untreated cataracts.
Untreated cataracts can become “hyper-mature”, a condition which can make the cataract procedure more difficult and more likely to cause cataract surgery complications.
Having your eyes examined routinely will allow for the Optometrist to monitor the changes that are happening to your cataract and to your vision. If you notice your vision getting worse, it is important to schedule an eye exam to see what is wrong.
Can a Cataract Come Back?
No. A cataract cannot come back after surgery. However, sometimes people may find a decline in their vision again several weeks or months after the cataract procedure. It almost feels like the cataract has “grown back”. This is sometimes called a SECONDARY CATARACT, but it is not the cataract returning. It is the sac that the new lens sits in that is clouding up. This is known as POSTERIOR CAPSULAR OPACIFICATION (PCO). This cloudiness can be easily removed by a painless laser treatment within a matter of minutes. (This is not surgery! Just a quick laser to the eye.)
IF you have any questions regarding Cataracts or Cataract procedure, The Doctors here at Empire Eyewear are more than happy to answer them.