I would like to address a very well known eye problem and a choice that most of us will be required to make as we mature. Cataracts are a common condition. A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataract formation is a normal part of the eyes’ aging process. In fact, most individuals over the age of 65 have had at least some limitation of their visual function due to cataracts. While the most common cause of cataracts is aging, other factors such as smoking, diabetes, and the use of certain medications can contribute to early cataract formation. The symptoms of cataracts are variable, but are all related to vision. Some of the more common symptoms include: blurring or distortion of images, difficulty reading, nighttime glare, diminished color perception, increased light requirements, ghosting or doubling of images, and trouble reading road signs or TV captions. Contrary to popular belief, there is no point at which a cataract becomes “ripe.” The clouding of the lens simply becomes worse with time. This process occurs more rapidly in some individuals than in others. In the early stages, there is little benefit to removing a cataract. As things progress, symptoms become more pronounced and a decision has to be made about when to stop the process and remove the cataract. That determination is best made by the patient, in consultation with their eye surgeon. It should take into account the results of a thorough eye exam and a discussion of the following factors: functionality, safety, and legality. Functionality refers to a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. If cataracts are interfering with a patient’s ability to perform activities of daily living or to participate in activities that they enjoy, then the physician may recommend removal of the cataract. Safety is a more basic priority and refers to instances when decreased vision can place a person at risk. Statistics show that seniors who have had cataract surgery have fewer auto accidents than those who have not. Some individuals have driving or occupational legal vision requirements that would necessitate cataract removal. Cataract surgery is a painless, outpatient procedure with a quick recovery time. Vision is improved in over 99% of cases. There have been numerous advances in the field of cataract surgery to not only remove the cloudy lens but also decrease dependency on glasses. If you have questions or concerns about cataract surgery or need help deciding if it is the right time for you, please consult your eye doctor.
Author: Michael Keverline, MD