What are cataracts

What are cataracts?

Many Canadians, especially as we age, will suffer from poor vision caused by cataracts. But did you know Cataracts are easily diagnosed and treatable? In addition, when severe enough, the MSP will pay for surgery that will, in almost all cases, restore vision. 

But, what are cataracts and how are they treated?

A cataract is when the normal crystalline lens of the eye clouds over, making it more difficult to see.  Normally, light passes through this lens and focuses on a part of your brain, enabling your eye and your brain to work together to process the information and enable you to form an image.

People with cataracts describe the condition as looking at the world through a foggy window. This is because the lens no longer processes light in the same way and results in blurry vision.

Cataracts develop slowly. Initially, they do not disturb the vision. As they get worse, the vision becomes increasingly more clouded, which makes it more difficult to drive, especially at night. The ability to read becomes impaired. Some begin to find it difficult to even navigate around their home.

At first, a change in the prescription for your eyeglasses may help. Increasing the lighting when you read may be all you need. But eventually, you will likely need to have the cataracts removed. This is generally a simple outpatient surgical process.

What causes cataracts?

The lens of the eye is made up mostly of water and proteins. At birth it is crystal clear. As we age, the proteins break down and are unable to be removed. This eventually clouds the lens and is a normal part of the aging process.

Everyone, if they live long enough, will develop cataracts. Other causes, in addition to aging, include:

  • Diabetes.
  • Drinking excessive alcohol.
  • Eye surgery (for reasons unrelated to cataracts).
  • Eye disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Obesity.
  • Radiation treatment to the upper body.
  • Smoking.
  • Some medications used for high blood pressure or mental health disorders.
  • Steroid treatment.
  • Time in the sun without eye protection.

What are the symptoms of a cataract?

The first symptom of cataracts is blurred vision. Initially, a change in the prescription for your eyeglasses is enough to take care of the problem.

As cataracts get worse, so do the symptoms. Eventually, they grow to a level that changing the prescription is not enough. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Cloudy, blurry, foggy vision.
  • Color vision is affected.
  • Difficulty seeing at night.
  • Double vision.
  • Need to have a brighter, more direct light when reading.
  • Prescription change in eyeglasses does not improve vision.
  • Seeing a halo around the headlights of oncoming cars.
  • Sensitivity to light, including bright lamps, headlights of oncoming cars, and sunlight.

The good news is that cataracts generally do not cause pain. Discomfort comes from sensitivity to light and frustration with increasing foggy vision.

How are cataracts removed?

The good news is that generally, when cataracts symptoms are affecting the quality of life to the degree that it is difficult or impossible to drive or read, cataracts can be removed. This is a surgical procedure performed by an ophthalmologist.

The surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens. The lens is chosen to shape to fit your specific eye and personalized to improve your vision the same as prescription lenses do. It is placed in the exact spot where the natural lens was prior to the surgery and becomes a permanent part of your eye.

The operation is done on an outpatient basis and only takes about an hour. The surgeon uses eye drops and medication to numb the eye. You will be awake, but you will feel no pain and you will not see the procedure.

There are some cases where other eye problems may prevent the placement of an artificial lens. Then, the clouded lens is removed, and vision is improved by wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Usually, cataracts develop in both eyes. Surgery is done on one eye at a time. After you recover from the first surgery, surgery will be scheduled to remove the cataract from your other eye.

Cataract removal surgery is one of the safest surgeries in North America. It is essentially quick, painless, and restores vision in more than 90 percent of those who have the surgery.

Schedule An Eye Appointment Today

If you are experiencing symptoms of cataracts, contact us at Garibaldi Eye Care to schedule an appointment and learn how we can help.