Not being able to see well at short or long distances may be easily resolved with prescription spectacles or contact lenses. But many eye conditions cannot be fixed that simply. Cataracts are a common example. They can cause one’s vision to appear blurred, or dimmed. This can be more obvious in either bright or dim conditions depending on the type of cataract present. Sometimes, one may even see double (ghost images). Read on to learn more about what cataracts are, the symptoms to look out for, and how to treat them.
Cataracts And How It Affects Our Vision
The human eye has a natural lens that bends or refracts the light rays, so that they converge on the retina, allowing us see the things around us. In its perfect state, this lens is clear and fully allows light into the eye. A cataract refers to the condition where this lens becomes clouded by various forms of opacification, resulting in decreased vision, similar to looking through a dusty or foggy car windshield. If you have cataracts, you will notice symptoms of significant vision change such as:
- Blurred vision
- Higher sensitivity to light or glare
- Reading difficulties at night or needing more light to read well
- Seeing vibrant colours as duller shades
- Seeing double or ghost images on the affected eye
- Some may experience marked blurring of vision in bright light eg when outdoors in bright sunlight
How Do Cataracts Develop?
Ageing is the most common and primary issue behind cataracts. Natural degenerative changes in the eye typically occur past the age of 40 years. At this time, normal proteins in the lens start breaking down, resulting in a clouded lens. The decrease in vision is often more obvious in the 60s onwards but may be experienced earlier in life. Other factors that may predispose towards cataract formation include:
- A family history of cataracts
- Having certain health conditions like diabetes or harmful lifestyle habits such as smoking
- Having had an eye injury or eye surgery prior
- Radiation treatments done on the upper body
- Spending a lot of time under the sun without proper eye protection
- Using certain medicines like corticosteroids can potentially cause cataracts to form much earlier
For age-related cataracts, the onset tends to be gradual. In other cases, they may progress more quickly, like those in diabetics of following an injury to the eye. There is no accurate way to predict how soon a person’s cataracts will develop. However, one can help slow down the degenerative process by wearing sunglasses with strong UV protection and by cessation of smoking. For more information about these protective measures, it’s best to consult an eye specialist doctor.
Cataract Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing cataracts entails examining the eyes via a comprehensive eye exam that typically includes a slit-lamp exam, retinal exam as well as visual acuity testing.
1. Slit-lamp exam
An ophthalmologist examines the patient’s lens, iris, cornea, and other areas of the front eye with the help of a special slit-lamp microscope that provides a magnified view of the anterior structures of the eyes.
2. Retinal exam
The patient’s pupils are dilated with eyedrops to allow for a full examination of the retina at the back of the eye. With a slit-lamp and indirect ophthalmoscope, the ophthalmologist looks for signs of cataract and other eye problems like glaucoma as well as examines the optic nerve and retina. A comprehensive assessment is essential in helping the ophthalmologist select the best intraocular lens implant that would best suit each patient.
3. Visual acuity test
This evaluates the patient’s clarity and sharpness of vision by testing each eye’s ability to correctly make out letters of varying sizes at a fixed distance.
Cataract treatment in Singapore alleviates cataracts by removing them via surgery and replacing them with carefully selected intraocular lenses. Surgery can be considered when cataracts start to impact vision and affect quality of life. Those with minimal symptoms may hold off surgery by wearing new prescription glasses. These may not fully correct all symptoms of cataract.
During cataract surgery, an eye surgery doctor in Singapore removes the clouded natural lens and replaces it with a clear intraocular lens or IOL, which the doctor will tell you more about before surgery. There are different types of IOLs and the doctor will help you select one that is best suited for your circumstances.
Patients with cataract surgery may see their vision get hazy again after several years due to the lens capsule—the preserved membranous lining of the lens that supports the IOL—also getting cloudy. This can be readily rectified with capsulotomy, which uses a laser to open up the cloudy capsule and restore normal vision.
Cataracts are one of the most common reasons for decreasing vision. Fortunately, vision can be readily restored with the right treatment. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, speak to your ophthalmologist to discuss the proper course of action and determine whether you are ready for surgery. At Ava Eye Clinic, we are ready to lend a helping hand and provide expert ophthalmology services for general and subspecialised eye conditions, from cataract surgery to thyroid eye disease and more. Book an appointment with us if you and your family have any eye concerns.