A cataract refers to any opacity of the crystalline lens inside the eye.
There are many different types of eye cataract. The most common type of cataract arises from age but even under this umbrella term of “age-related cataract” there can be a few different forms of cataract depending on where exactly within the lens the opacity or haze is located.
Though many people may dread the day they might be told they have a cataract, eye cataracts are a very normal part of ageing, much like wrinkles and grey hairs. Because of this, we expect the number of cataract diagnoses to increase as our population ages.
Many patients will experience the effects of cataract without realising the source of them. Here are some common eye cataract symptoms to look out for:
- Blurry vision – some patients will also describe their vision as filmy or hazy, like looking through a dirty window.
- Glare sensitivity – as light is scattered and bounced off the opacities in a lens with cataract, your eye may perceive this as increased glare and associated discomfort.
- Difficulty driving at night or in low contrast road conditions – our pupils dilate and open further in dim lighting conditions. Although the purpose of this is to permit more light into the eye and so improve your night vision, it also means that more area of the lens and cataract sitting behind the pupil is exposed, which then has a greater potential to scatter light entering the eye. This can make people feel unsafe when driving in darker conditions, especially because of glare from street lights and oncoming car headlights.
- Difficulty reading – the process of reading is complex and involves much more than just the eyes. However, the ability of the eyes to discern the fine detail of text plays a big part. Patients with cataract will often report that they now need much better lighting to be able to read comfortably, and this is due to the degradation of contrast vision from cataract. Conversely, when reading off a digital device such as a tablet or phone, if the screen is too bright, the cataract may cause discomfort from glare.
A normal, healthy lens is perfectly clear at birth but as we get older, the ageing process results in this lens gradually losing its transparency. As this haziness of the lens progresses, light entering the eye becomes blocked or scattered, which degrades the image reaching the retina and you start to notice your vision is less clear than it may have been several years ago.
A thorough examination will help determine the eye’s overall health as well as the best treatment options for each patient.
Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures done in the Western world and is currently the only treatment for cataracts.
The success rates for cataract surgery are excellent, quoted at around 98%.
Within a day or two after the procedure, we expect cataract symptoms to be almost completely resolved. You may experience some decreasing mild blurriness as the eye heals over the following weeks, but the clarity of your vision will be significantly improved. Depending on the type of lens implant decided between you and your surgeon, you may need an updated prescription in your spectacles, but with certain types of implants, some patients find they no longer need glasses at all, whether for near or distance vision.