Shortly after the eye doctor tells a patient “you have cataract”, the question comes up….”when will I need surgery?”. Well, that’s always a tough question to answer for various reasons. This article should help you understand what cataract is, and is not, and offer insight on when cataract surgery is indicated.
What is Cataract?
Cataract is an often misunderstood term. Located right behind the pupil inside the eye is a lens that helps to focus your vision. This lens can lose clarity over time or after severe trauma. This cloudiness can be demonstrated in various ways, but the bottom line is that your vision can gradually decrease and other symptoms will develop over time. Cataract is not a growth, or a film, or a scale that forms on the eye. It’s the same lens you were born with, but now it has lost some of its clarity.
What are the symptoms of cataract?
The symptoms of cataract develop slowly over time and the list includes the following:
- increase glare, especially at night
- a general hazy or dim vision
- needing more light for reading
- change in color perception
Not everyone experiences the same symptoms, but the symptoms come on gradually over time. Any sudden change in the vision would be related to other problems and you should call your eye doctor right away.
So, when will I need cataract surgery?
In decades past, surgeons would tell patients to wait until the cataract was “ripe”. That was probably a poor choice of words since the lens doesn’t “ripen” up. This term has caused more confusion than clarity. It is more appropriate to talk about cataract “progressing”. When the cataract has an impact on your visual function, and new eyeglasses are not going to be helpful, it’s probably time for cataract surgery. If you are content and safe with your vision, it’s OK to wait on surgery. But if you need relief from glare, need to see better than you are, or if you’re just not content with your vision, then you’re ready for cataract surgery.
Over time, optometrists and ophthalmologists have been trained to listen to your vision complaints. In some cases, these complaints can be addressed with new eye wear. However, at some point cataract vision changes can not be solved with eye wear and it’s time to see a cataract surgeon. If you have questions, ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist to review all of your options.