What does vision look like with cataracts

In the early stages of a cataract, you may not notice any significant changes to the clarity of your vision. At this stage, you may be more sensitive to glare around lights when driving at night, or if the sun is low. As a cataract progress further, you may then begin to notice your vision becoming cloudy or blurry.

A cataract is a progressive, painless clouding of the natural, internal lens of the eye. Cataracts block light, making it difficult to see clearly. Over a period of time, cataracts can cause blindness, if not treated or removed. They’re often related to growing older, but sometimes they can develop in younger people

The majority of cataracts are related to aging. More than half of Americans over 65 have cataracts. Babies are sometimes born with cataracts, also called congenital cataracts, or children may develop them as a result of injury or illness. Exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) light can also increase the risk of cataract and other eye conditions.

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Cataracts can affect how you perceive colour. This can make some hues and shades look faded. If left untreated, your vision may appear brown or yellow. Over time it may also become harder to distinguish blues and purples.

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Glare

Not all eye doctors are advocates for early cataract surgery. Depending on the types of cataract a patient is facing and the severity of vision loss they’re contending with, your doctor may opt to wait for a later date.

Cataracts can affect your color vision, making some hues look faded. Your vision may gradually take on a brownish or yellowish tinge. At first, you may not notice this discoloration. But over time, it may make it harder to distinguish blues and purples.

What does vision look like with cataracts

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Frequent changes to your eyeglass or contact lens prescription can be a sign of cataracts. This is because cataracts are usually progressive, meaning they get worse over time.

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If you have vision loss caused by cataracts that can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, you may need surgery to remove the cataracts. In cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. The surgery, which is done on an outpatient basis, is safe and extremely effective at improving vision. If cataracts are present in both eyes, surgery will be done on one eye at a time.

Complications from cataract surgery are rare. The most common risks are bleeding, infection, and changes in eye pressure, which are all treatable when caught early. Surgery slightly raises the risk of retinal detachment, which requires emergency treatment. Sometimes, lens tissue left after surgery and used to support the IOL can become cloudy, even years after surgery. This “after-cataract” is easily and permanently corrected with a laser.

Left untreated, a cataract will develop to late-stage. It can become visibly noticeable to other people, appearing as a milky spot at the centre part of the eye. It’s this that creates the vision impairment. With a late-stage cataract, patients will have very limited vision, may need to stop driving, and may become more reluctant to go out and about alone.

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1) Dr. P. Marazzi / Photo Researchers, Inc
2) Gunilla Elam / Photo Researchers, Inc
3) Joseph Devenney/Photographer’s Choice
4) Amana Productions/Amana Images
5) Getty Images
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9) Getty Images
10) Scott Camazine / Phototake
11) Barraquer Ophthalmological Center, Barcelona Copyright © ISM / Phototake
12) Michelle Del Guercio / Photo Researchers, Inc
13) R. Spencer Phippen / Phototake
14) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory / Photo Researchers, Inc
15) Matt Grey/Digital Vision
16) Medicimage/Phototake
17) Catherine Ledner/Taxi
18) Jose Luis Pelaez/Blend Images

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Types of Cataract Surgery

Whether or not to have cataract surgery is up to you and your doctor. Rarely cataracts need to be removed right away, but this isn’t usually the case. Cataracts affect vision slowly over time, so many people wait to have surgery until glasses or contacts no longer improve their vision enough. If you don’t feel that your cataracts are causing problems in your day-to-day life, you may choose to wait.

Initially after your private cataract surgery, you’ll be given eye drops to use during the day and an eye shield to wear overnight. These must be used as recommended by your surgeon. Take painkillers if needed, but otherwise use your eyes as normal. You may need to wear sunglasses outside, avoid strenuous exercise, and try not to rub your eyes for the first few weeks after surgery.

For a few days, your eye may be itchy and sensitive to light. You may be prescribed drops to aid healing and asked to wear an eye shield or glasses for protection. It’ll take about eight weeks for your eye to heal completely, though your vision should begin to improve soon after surgery. You may still need glasses, at least occasionally, for distance or reading — as well as a new prescription after healing is complete.

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This is the most common symptom of cataracts. It can affect both distance and reading vision which may appear foggy. If left untreated, the clouding of the lens means the cataract will worsen, with less light able to get through the lens.

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Later stage cataract vision

Longer term, your eye should be fully recovered and healed within 8 weeks.

Sometimes, a cataract may temporarily improve a person’s ability to see close-up, because the cataract acts as a stronger lens. This phenomenon is called second sight, because people who may have once needed reading glasses find that they don’t need them anymore. As the cataract worsens however, this goes away and vision worsens again.

If, like most people, you rely on your eyes every day, having impaired vision is a scary thought. To protect yourself from eye problems, it’s therefore important to be able to recognise the different symptoms of cataracts.

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