What are the symptoms of cataracts?
What are Cataracts and what is the cataract treatment?
Cataracts are formed when the clear lens of your eye becomes cloudy or misty. It is not painful and is a gradual process that usually happens as we get older. The early stages of a cataract do not necessarily affect your sight.
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What are the symptoms of cataracts?
If you have cataracts,
You may notice that your vision is less clear and distinct.
You may experience difficulty moving from shade to sunlight.
Colours may also look different and appear yellowed or faded.
You may experience double vision.
You may be more light sensitive, both in bright light and with your night vision where car headlights and streetlights may appear dazzling.
Vision will not clear even with the best visual correction aids.
If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your optometrist.
This is what vision may look like if you had cataracts
Compared to normal vision
Photos courtesy of The National Eye Institute (Bethesda, MD)
What causes cataracts?
The main cause of cataracts is ageing. Most people who develop a cataract in one eye will unfortunately develop a cataract in both of their eyes, although one eye may be affected before the other. Young people can develop cataracts if they suffer an injury to one or both of their eyes. Taking medications such as steroids, and some health conditions such as diabetes, may also cause cataracts. Other causes include eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma and uveitis, and eye surgery for retinal detachment.
What is the treatment?
There are various treatments which claim to help slow or cure the development of cataracts, but there is no evidence to suggest that these can prevent or treat cataracts – the only proven treatment for a cataract is surgery. If your cataract gets to the stage where it affects your sight, and your vision cannot be improved enough by changing your glasses, your Optician will refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) for the surgery which is carried out under a local anaesthetic in most cases.
Tips to prevent or delay cataracts
To prevent cataracts later in life, protect your eyes from UV eye damage as this increases the risks of cataract. Wear sunglasses or UV blocking glasses or contact lenses. If you are a smoker, STOP, as this may delay cataracts. The risk of developing cataracts also increases if you drink a lot of alcohol or are overweight.
Can I drive if I have cataracts?
You may be able to continue to drive if you have cataracts as long as you still meet the vision standards for driving, and your optometrist will be able to advise you on this. You do not need to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) about your cataract unless you cannot meet the vision standards.
The surgery involves removing the cloudy lens (the cataract) and replacing it with a clear plastic artificial lens. If you have cataracts in both eyes, you will usually have one cataract removed at a time. If you are at low risk of complications, some surgeons will carry out the lens implantation on both eyes at the same time.
Most cataract surgery is successful, and most people are happy with the results. However, as with all surgery, there are risks involved and you should not have the operation unless you feel it is right for you. Before you have the operation, your surgeon will discuss any risks with you.
If a cataract is not affecting your day-to-day life (for example, driving, reading or cooking), it is safe to leave it. Over time it can become more difficult to remove if you delay having surgery. If you choose not to have surgery, you will not be able to see as well as the cataract gets worse. The cataract does not have to become severe for you to have the operation.
Do I still need glasses and an eye test after cataract surgery?
You should have an eye test with an optometrist after 4-6 weeks when the cataract surgery will have settled down and you have finished the eye drops. Regular eye tests are recommended going forward. If you wore glasses before the surgery, you would probably need your prescription changing. You may find that it takes a while to get used to the new glasses after cataract surgery. This is due to your brain adapting to a different prescription and is totally normal. Good quality sunglasses are recommended as you have less natural UV protection after the surgery
More information and advice on cataracts
Vision problems can arise in anyone, at any time – it doesn't matter how young or old you are, or how fit you are. It's our goal to help you get back to your normal life as quickly as possible. If you are ever worried about your eyes or your family’s eye health, feel free to come and talk to us about eye care. Call 020 8759 9395 to make an appointment for an eye test. Alternatively, you can book online.
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