If you live long enough, you’ll almost certainly get cataracts. Cloudy lenses are not only related to aging — they’re practically guaranteed. Over 50% of folks over 80 have cataracts in one or both eyes, and virtually all those who live to 100 have them.
In the early stages, symptoms are nonexistent or mild, and you can get some relief from medication, prescription eye drops, and nutritional tweaks. But cataracts won’t go away on their own. In fact, cataracts are progressive, so even if they aren’t bothering you now, they will eventually.
When cataracts interfere with your daily life, it’s time to think about a surgical solution.
Although eye surgery can be intimidating, it’s safe and effective when performed by a skilled and experienced ophthalmologist like Dr. Maher Fanous, who specializes in complex eye surgeries at North Florida Eye Center.
While surgery is never the first-line treatment for early cataracts, there comes a time when it’s necessary. Dr. Fanous explains the circumstances that warrant cataract surgery.
The clear lenses that cover your eye are like windows to the inner parts. It’s not hard to imagine that a cloudy lens will distort your vision like a dirty window. Sadly, this cloudiness is a predictable result of aging. Starting in your 40s, the proteins in your lenses begin to redistribute and form clumps that create a milky film that distorts your vision and is visible to onlookers.
Although aging is the primary driver behind cataract formation, you can also develop after an eye injury and due to excessive radiation exposure (including the sun’s UV rays). If you have certain health conditions — diabetes, inflammatory eye diseases, herpes, hypothyroidism, atopic dermatitis, and syphilis, to name a few — you may be more likely to develop cataracts early. Some corticosteroid medications can also increase your chances of getting cataracts.
If you think of your lenses as an M&M candy (they’re about the same size and shape), it’s easy to visualize the different types of cataracts. The outer shell is called the capsule, the inner part is called the nucleus, and the portion between the nucleus and the capsule is the cortex. The front is the anterior; the back is the posterior.
The various types of cataracts are named for their locations:
Your cataracts could develop on the anterior, posterior, or peripheral portions of your M&M-shaped lenses, and the position and severity of the cataract dictate your symptoms.
Dr. Fanous may recommend conservative treatments for your emerging cataracts at first. For example, you may need a new eyeglass prescription, a diet change, or prescription medication or eye drops.
However, as symptoms worsen, these measures won’t help. Dr. Fanous recommends cataract surgery when the following symptoms disrupt your life.
If walking outdoors makes you wince, and the glare of bright lights is more than you can handle, you may need cataract surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an intraocular lens implant. The Alcon LenSx® Laser surgery is precise, painless, and highly effective — it has a 99% success rate.
As cataracts progress, it gets harder to see in the dark, making night driving extremely dangerous. If the ambient light seems dim and you need to turn on lamps even during the day, you may need cataract surgery.
One of the classic symptoms is the appearance of halo-like rings around light sources, such as streetlamps and headlights. Again, this makes night driving risky and could indicate the need for cataract surgery.
When cataracts become denser, they distort your vision, making things look blurry and out-of-focus. You may also feel as if you’re looking through yellow-tinted sunglasses that dim the light and give your field of vision a gold or brown hue — another sign that cataract surgery is in your best interest.
Your retina relies on a clear lens to receive light and translate it into an electrical message it sends to your brain. Cataracts diffuse the light and jumble the message, causing double vision that can be dangerous and disorienting. Cataract surgery may be the best solution.
Discover whether your cataracts need surgery. Request an appointment online or call our friendly North Florida Eye Center staff at 352-331-7337.