If your view seems a little hazy, it may have nothing to do with the weather. You may be developing cataracts. In fact, most people over age 60 eventually develop age-related cataracts and symptoms can appear as early as your 40s or 50s.
As we age, the proteins in the lens of our eyes begin to break down and clump together, causing cloudy spots known as cataracts. Some common early symptoms include hazy or blurry vision (you may feel as though you are looking out of a foggy windshield) and colors may appear faded or yellowish.
If this describes you, you may be wondering if you do have cataracts, and if so how to best prepare for your eye doctor visit. Here are 6 questions to ask at your next eye exam (whether you’re currently experiencing symptoms or not!)
1. How will I know if I have cataracts?
The only way to know for sure if you are developing cataracts is to have a comprehensive eye exam by a qualified eye doctor. But being able to recognize and articulate symptoms you may be experiencing will be helpful to both you and your doctor. Because cataracts generally grow slowly, you may not even notice a difference in your vision at the very beginning. But, over time, most people do begin to experience effects.
In addition to blurry vision and/or faded colors, other symptoms to look out for include double vision in one eye, difficulty seeing at night and seeing halos around lights. Read more about common early cataract symptoms here. [NOTE: hyperlink to recent blog – not yet posted – about 7 early cataract symptoms]
2. What tests will you give me?
It’s common to feel apprehensive about an eye exam, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Talking with your doctor about what kinds of tests will be performed and specifically how he/she will determine if a cataract is present may make you feel more comfortable.
Typically, a doctor will use a wide variety of tests and procedures to evaluate your vision and check the health of your eyes. Some common practices include pupil dilation to examine the lens of your eye for signs of a cataract, a slit lamp exam, which is an examination of the structure of the eye using a special microscope called a slit lamp and a visual acuity test to evaluate the sharpness of your distance vision. Your doctor may also check for other conditions such as glaucoma. Learn more about common eye exam procedures and how cataracts are diagnosed here.
3. If I have a cataract, will I need surgery?
Cataracts are a progressive condition and often grow quite slowly. However, when a cataract becomes large enough to interfere with vision in a way that affects your every day life, most eye doctors will recommend surgery. The only way to effectively remove a cataract is to remove the natural lens of the eye that has become clouded with a cataract and to replace it with an artificial lens known as an intraocular lens, or IOL.
Although it may sound frightening, cataract surgery is very common. In fact, it is one of the most widely performed surgeries worldwide. Read more about cataract surgery here.
4. Can I still have cataract surgery if I’ve had LASIK?
Because LASIK surgery (as an alternative to glasses or contact lenses) has become more and more common in recent years, it’s a top-of-mind concern for patients with cataracts. “Is cataract surgery possible if I’ve already had LASIK ?” Fortunately, the answer to this question is usually “yes.”
If possible it is helpful to provide your doctor with complete records of your vision prior to LASIK surgery. It will help in selecting the correctly powered IOL for your unique situation. The more prepared you can be at your initial eye exam, the better. Read more about cataract surgery post-LASIK here.
5. Are there things I can do to prevent or slow cataracts?
Although there are no sure-fire ways to prevent cataracts, there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risks. Things like wearing sunglasses, quitting smoking, and eating a healthy diet have been shown to lower the risk of developing cataracts. Read more about diet and cataract prevention here and tips for maintaining healthy vision over time here.
Be sure to discuss lifestyle changes with your eye doctor in the context of keeping your eyes healthy as you age!
6. Will I still need glasses after surgery? For distance? For reading?
Whether or not you will need glasses after cataract surgery depends on factors such as your vision before you developed a cataract, and which intraocular lens you choose. Your eye doctor can help you select the IOL that is right for you. For more information on what to know about eyeglass prescription changes after cataract surgery, read more here.
Fortunately, there have been recent technological advancements in intraocular lenses, such as the IC-8 lens, which have minimized the need for glasses after cataract surgery. Learn more about the IC-8 lens technology and how it works for near to far vision after cataract surgery.