When a normally clear lens of your eye clouds, you have a cataract. People with cataracts feel like seeing through a frosty or fogged-up window. A clouded vision makes it difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or see a person’s expressions.
Cataracts develop slowly and do not affect the eyesight early on. But eventually, it will. The initial stage of cataracts can be dealt with stronger lighting and eyeglasses. But when your vision gets impaired and it interferes with your routine activities, you might need a cataract surgery. Fortunately, it is a safe and effective procedure.
To detect if you have cataracts, you will have to consult a doctor who will review your medical history and symptoms. He will also perform an eye examination and may conduct several tests.
Diagnosis of Cataracts
The tests that your doctor might want you to take in order to accurately diagnose cataracts are:
Visual Acuity Test: This test uses an eye chart to measure how well you can read a series of letters. Your one eye will be tested while the other will be covered. The eyes will then be switched to test. /the chart has a series of progressively smaller letters, and helps your doctor to determine if your 20/20 vision is correct or impaired.
Slit-lamp Examination: Your doctor will use a slit-lamp to see the structures at the front of your eye under examination. It is a microscope and uses an intense line of light, a slit, to eliminate your cornea, iris, lens, and the space between your iris and cornea. Your doctor can view the structures in small sections through the slit, which makes it easier to detect any tiny abnormalities.
Retinal Examination: For a retinal exam, your doctor will put dilating drops in your eyes to open your pupils wide. This makes it easier for him to examine your retina, i.e. the back of your eyes. Then, he will use a slit lamp or an ophthalmoscope to examine your lens for signs of cataract.
Treatment for Cataracts
Surgery is the only effective treatment for cataracts. Your doctor will guide you if surgery is right for you and it is mostly considered when the condition starts affecting your quality of life or interfere with your ability to perform daily chores such as reading or driving at night.
- You and your doctor can decide the right time of surgery for you. Mostly, there isn’t a rush to operate and remove the cataract because it usually doesn’t harm the eye. However, delaying the procedure won't make it more likely that you won't recover your vision if you later decide to have cataract surgery.
- If you don’t wish to undergo a surgery presently, your doctor may prescribe periodic follow-up exams to check the progression of your cataracts.
- When you do undergo the surgery, it will involve removing the clouded lens from your eye and replacing it with a clear artificial lens, called intraocular lens. It is placed in the same position as your natural lens and becomes a permanent part of your eye.
- In some cases the use of artificial lens isn’t possible and therefore, once the cataract is removed, vision may be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. The surgery is generally done on an outpatient basis and you don’t need to stay in the hospital after the surgery.
- For the procedure, the doctor will numb the area around your eye using a local anaesthesia and you will most probably be awake during the procedure. Fortunately, this surgery is safe, but rarely a risk of infection and bleeding may occur. An increased risk of retinal detachment is one side-effect of a cataract surgery.
After a cataract surgery, you will feel slight discomfort in your eyes for a few days but generally, eight weeks is all you need to completely heal.
If you need cataract surgery in both eyes, your doctor will schedule surgery to remove the cataract in the second eye a month or two after the first surgery.
Image Courtesy: Getty
Read more articles on Understanding Eye Disorders.