Death and Taxes…. And Cataracts. They are a certainty. In fact, over 90% of all Americans by will have some degree of cataracts by age 65. Everyone will develop cataracts and potentially need cataract surgery at some point. People often associate cataracts with advanced age, however people can develop a cataract even in their 40’s. Some people are even born with cataracts. Cataracts are usually slow growing, so you may not even know you have them at first. As they progress, cataracts will cause changes in your vision that make it harder to do things that you enjoy. The doctors at Columbia Eye Consultants Optometry are here to help you decide when the right time is for you to pursue cataract surgery.
So, what exactly are cataracts? Cataracts are clouding of the lenses inside your eyes. Your lens allows your eye to focus light and produce a clear image. If the lens is clouded, then your vision will not be sharp, even with an updated glasses prescription. There are several different kinds of cataracts, and they all can affect your vision slightly different. The most common visual symptoms of cataracts are blurred vision, decreased contrast, trouble driving at night, glare and halos around lights.
The first thing that must be done if you are thinking about pursuing cataract surgery is a comprehensive eye health examination (with dilation). Your optometrist will assess your best visual acuity, and view your cataracts to determine if they believe surgery would be the recommended course of action. Cataracts are typically considered medically necessary when the decline in your vision affects your quality of life, prevents you from getting around safely, or makes it hard to do the things you need or like to do. From there, they will refer you to a cataract surgeon for measurements.
Your surgeon will meet with you for consultation prior to scheduling surgery. They will dilate your eyes, get a few more important measurements, and formulate a surgery plan with you. They will also discuss your lens implant options. Following surgery, your prescription will change, sometimes significantly. The new implanted lens will essentially have your prescription in it, often reducing the dependency on glasses.
Cataract surgery has come a long way in recent years. It is a relatively fast, safe procedure. However, potential risks do exist. Your doctor will help you weigh the risks vs. the benefits of having the procedure. It is performed under local anesthesia, on an outpatient basis. Typically, people will have one eye done, with the second one to two weeks later. You will have frequent follow up appointments with your optometrist to ensure that your eye is healing, as it should, and to monitor the usage of your prescription drops. After your eyes have recovered, your vision will be stable enough for your optometrist to prescribe a new prescription for glasses, if desired.
Still not sure you are ready to pursue cataract surgery? That is okay, there is no harm in waiting. We can monitor your cataract progression through yearly exams, and discuss surgery when you are ready.