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When to Get Cataract Surgery

When to Get Cataract Surgery: Timing and Signs

The ideal timing for cataract surgery typically falls within an 18-to-24-month window once certain signs become evident. The decision to undergo cataract surgery is a significant one, and timing is crucial for ensuring the best possible outcome. 

Understanding the signs that your cataracts are worsening is the first step to making your cataract surgery as successful as possible.

Understanding Cataracts

Before delving into the timing of cataract surgery, it’s essential to understand what cataracts are. Cataracts are a common eye condition that can affect people as they age, leading to cloudy vision and reduced quality of life. 

Cataracts occur when the natural lens in the eye becomes cloudy, leading to blurred or distorted vision. This cloudiness can develop gradually over time, and it’s often associated with aging. While cataracts can be asymptomatic in the early stages, they can progress and significantly impact your vision, making daily activities more challenging.

Can Cataracts Get Worse Quickly?

While cataracts commonly progress gradually, several factors can contribute to a seemingly rapid deterioration of vision. Trauma to the eye, such as injury or accidents, can accelerate cataract development or cause an immediate change in vision. Additionally, certain medical conditions like diabetes or the prolonged use of medications like steroids can expedite the progression of cataracts. 

Uncontrolled diabetes, for instance, can lead to accelerated cataract formation due to fluctuations in blood sugar levels impacting the lens of the eye. Furthermore, certain lifestyle factors such as smoking or prolonged exposure to sunlight without protective eyewear may hasten cataract development. Although most cataracts evolve slowly, these specific situations can prompt a faster decline in vision, necessitating prompt attention and evaluation by an eye care professional.

Signs that Cataracts are Getting Worse

Signs that cataracts are getting worse may include blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night, changes in color perception, prescription changes, double vision or glare and halos. Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing any of these signs.

Blurred Vision

One of the most common signs that your cataracts are worsening is increasingly blurred vision. You may notice that your vision becomes hazy or cloudy, making it difficult to read, drive, or see clearly in low-light conditions.

Difficulty with Night Vision

Cataracts can cause increased sensitivity to glare from headlights or streetlights, making nighttime driving particularly challenging. If you find it increasingly difficult to drive safely at night, it may be a sign that your cataracts are worsening.

Changes in Color Perception

Some individuals with cataracts experience changes in how they perceive colors. Colors may appear faded or less vibrant, making it challenging to distinguish between shades.

Increased Prescription Changes 

If you regularly wear glasses or contact lenses and notice that your prescription is changing frequently, it could be due to worsening cataracts. As the cataracts progress, the shape of your eye can change, leading to changes in your vision prescription.

Double Vision

Cataracts can cause double vision or seeing multiple images of the same object. This can significantly impact your daily life and safety as you may not know which image is real.

Glare and Halos

Cataracts can cause halos or glare around lights, making it difficult to drive at night or perform tasks that involve bright lights.

Read further about the signs, symptoms & effects of cataracts.

When Is It Time to Get Cataract Surgery?

Once you start experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, it’s essential to consult an eye care specialist for a comprehensive eye exam. They will assess the severity of your cataracts and determine if cataract surgery is necessary.

The 18-24 month timeframe is a general guideline recommended by many eye care professionals when considering cataract surgery. However, the decision to proceed with surgery should be personalized to your individual needs and lifestyle. Some factors to consider include:

Impact on Daily Life

Your decision to undergo cataract surgery should be based on how much your cataracts affect your daily life. If your vision problems hinder your ability to work, drive, or perform essential tasks, it may be time to consider surgery.

Goals and Lifestyle

Consider your lifestyle and goals. If you are an active individual who enjoys outdoor activities, hobbies, or sports that require good vision, you may opt for surgery earlier to maintain your quality of life.

Severity of Cataracts

The severity of your cataracts plays a significant role in the timing of surgery. If your cataracts are advanced and impairing your vision significantly, your eye care specialist may recommend surgery sooner.

Overall Health

Your general health is a crucial factor to consider. If you have other medical conditions that may complicate surgery, it’s essential to discuss these with your eye care specialist.

Doctor’s Recommendation

Ultimately, your decision should be made in consultation with your eye care specialist. They will provide personalized advice based on your unique circumstances.

What Happens If You Delay Cataract Surgery?

As cataracts progress, delaying surgery can potentially lead to increased surgical complications. With time, cataracts can harden and make the removal process more challenging. This hardness might require more intricate surgical techniques, potentially increasing the risk of complications such as inflammation, increased time for recovery, and a higher chance of experiencing issues like increased eye pressure or swelling post-surgery. Additionally, prolonged delay could worsen vision to a point where it becomes harder to correct even after surgery. This is why you must follow your ophthalmologist’s recommendations on when it’s the appropriate time for intervention.

Contact Us with Questions

Cataract surgery is a highly effective and safe procedure that can significantly improve your quality of life by restoring clear vision. Recognizing the signs that your cataracts are worsening is key to determining the right time for surgery. While the 18 to 24-month timeframe is a general guideline, the decision should be based on your individual needs, lifestyle, and the advice of your eye care specialist.

If you are experiencing any signs of worsening cataracts, or discuss cataract surgery further with an eye doctor, don’t hesitate to schedule an eye exam to discuss your options and determine the best course of action for your vision health.