Your doctor can help you decide when it is time for cataract surgery, but understanding symptoms can help you know when to make an appointment for a surgical consultation. In general, cataract symptoms can be subtle, and in early stages, they can be easy to ignore. (Learn more) When your symptoms grow in severity and keep you from doing what you love, it's reasonable to consider surgery. (Learn more)
At one point, only those in middle age were considered ideal for surgery, but now people of all ages are getting the care they need. (Learn more)
Cataract Symptoms Can Be Subtle
You use your vision to tackle some of the most common tasks that are part of everyday life. From the moment you glance at your alarm clock in the morning to the time you take off your slippers to slide into bed at night, your vision helps you get things done. It is reasonable to expect that any change in your vision would be immediately noticeable to you, but in reality, cataracts can cause symptoms that start so small you may not notice them.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, vision changes attributed to cataracts can include:
- Blurriness or cloudiness.
- Double vision.
- Light sensitivity.
- Low vision in dark conditions.
- Dull vision.
In the early stages, your cataracts might cause you to turn the lights up in the evening, so you can read or work on crafts. You might visit the doctor frequently to adjust your prescription, according to Michigan Health, so you can see things clearly. You may also find yourself reaching for sunglasses frequently to protect yourself from glare.
These minor shifts in your behavior could help you to manage the early changes cataracts can cause. But in time, those alterations may not be enough to ensure that you can see clearly.
Surgery Is Reasonable When Symptoms Are Severe
There is no universal, perfect time to have cataract surgery. According to the National Eye Institute, the decision to have surgery is personal, and you should make that decision in consultation with a doctor you trust. In general, it is reasonable to consider surgery when your inability to see clearly keeps you from everyday activities, such as reading or watching television. If the lifestyle steps you have tried aren't enough to make these daily tasks easier, surgery might be the best way to get you back to the life you once had.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that an inability to drive safely at night could indicate that it's the right time for surgery. In advanced stages, cataracts can create halos around the lights from oncoming cars, and that can make nighttime driving unsafe. If cataracts grow yet more advanced, you may fail the vision test required to renew your driver's license.
While you may be tempted to avoid surgery as long as you possibly can, there may be a point at which your cataracts grow severe enough to put your safety at risk. For example, Harvard Health Publishing reports that advanced cataracts can make seeing stairs difficult, and that could lead to severe falls.
A frank talk with your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing and the difficulties you are facing can help you understand if now is the right time to schedule the surgery you are considering.
People of All Ages Have Cataract Surgery
During cataract surgery, the clouded lens that keeps you from crisp vision is replaced. This surgery improves the vision of 95 percent of those who have it, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. If your cataract is advanced and lifestyle changes are not helping, surgery is the only way to address the issue. That is true no matter your age.
Cataracts tend to develop with age, meaning that many people who struggle with cataracts are in middle age or older. About 2 percent of those who have cataract surgery are in their early 40s. People like this may have eye changes related to age, and they may have underlying conditions like diabetes that cause cataracts to form earlier than they would otherwise.
At one point, people who had surgery tended to be in their 60s. Now, experts say, people are having cataract surgery at younger ages.
That is due, in part, to advances in technology, according to an expert quoted in Review of Ophthalmology. Cataract surgery was once an advanced surgery that required several days of recuperation in the hospital. Now, people can have surgery and go home the same day, and recovery times tend to be quicker. The enhanced surgical procedures and equipment that make the surgery easier for patients means more people are opting to have surgery sooner, whereas they may have put the surgery off in the past.
Older patients, who may have also avoided surgery in the past, can also experience the benefits of surgery. For example, in research published back in 2009 by the Journal of Optometry, researchers found that people in their 80s and even 90s tended to recover quickly from cataract surgery, and they were better able to complete daily activities after surgery when compared to pre-surgery scores.
While technology has improved and people young and old are having surgery to address cataract issues, this is still a surgical procedure, and your doctor will need to ensure that you are healthy enough to heal. If you have other eye conditions, such as macular degeneration, surgery might not be right for you. Some health conditions, such as AIDS, can impact your ability to heal and might keep you from surgery.
Before you are scheduled for surgery, your doctor will perform testing to ensure that you are a good candidate for surgery and are likely to heal quickly. Some of those tests involve questions. Be sure to answer each question honestly, so your doctor has all of the information required to make the right decision for you.
We Can Help
If you're not sure if cataract surgery is right for your eyes right now, we can help. At NVISION, we have doctors and surgeons you can trust. Every consultation begins with a thorough examination, so we can understand how your eyes are now and what might impede clear vision. We then create a treatment plan with you based on your goals and your needs.
If you choose surgery, you will be in the hands of experts both during the procedure and during your recovery. Contact us and we will connect you with an office in your area.
What Are Cataracts? (November 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Knowing When It's Time for Cataract Surgery. (September 2016). Michigan Health.
Facts About Cataracts. (September 2015). National Eye Institute.
When Is the Right Time to Have Cataract Surgery? (June 2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Considering Cataract Surgery? What You Should Know. (July 2018). Harvard Health Publishing.
Cataracts FAQ. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Why More Boomers Are Getting Cataract Surgery at a Younger Age. (October 2016). Today.
Cataract Patients: Younger Every Year. (March 2013). Review of Ophthalmology.
Results of Cataract Surgery in the Very Elderly Population. (September 2009). Journal of Optometry.