Unfortunately, no particular drug or types of eye drops have been found to specifically reverse or prevent the formation of cataracts. There are eyeglasses that can be recommended by your doctor if you develop nearsightedness or blurred vision as a result of cataract formation. A surgical procedure that involves the removal of your eyes' natural lens is currently the only treatment available.
When to remove a cataract?
There is no need to panic whenever you notice a cataract in your eye. There are cataracts that do not interfere with your sight or your daily productivity. These cataracts may go away on their own and do not necessarily need surgery to be removed.
However, there are cases where the cataracts tend to interfere with your vision, making it hard for you to perform your daily activities such as driving or engaging in your hobbies such as card gaming, knitting, and crocheting. If you develop this kind of cataract, then you should probably consider consulting a doctor for a possible surgery.
If both of your eyes are affected, they will be operated on different occasions, usually weeks apart. It is not usually recommended for both eyes to undergo a surgical operation at the same time since it takes some time for your eyes to heal and you may not be able to use both of your eyes for a period of time. An eye that has been operated on is prone to infections. For this reason, operating on both eyes may bring further complications since there is a possibility of infection to both of your eyes after the procedure.
When are cataracts ready for surgery?
In the past, people had to wait for their cataract to develop to a certain stage for them to get it removed, but thanks to modern technology, things have changed today. You don’t have to wait for the cataract to reach a certain point of development to be ready for surgery. With the advancement in technology, a cataract surgery can be performed at any stage of cataract development.
It is actually safer to get the cataract removed at an early stage in most cases. The reason is that the more it grows, the harder it gets and the more difficult it becomes to get rid of even with surgery. However, despite the fact that it is better removed at the earlier stages, it is advisable to undergo surgery only if you have gotten to a point where you are experiencing blurred visions due to your cataract. If it is left for too long after experiencing episodes of blurred visions, it can lead to more serious complications such as increased intraocular pressure or inflammation of the eye, which can later cause glaucoma.
If it gets to this point, it is important to immediately remove the cataract to avoid loss of vision as a result of glaucoma or the inflammation. However, these eye conditions are rare cases in the majority of developed countries due to easy access of eye care facilities.
The Patient’s Decision
It is important to note that the patient must have consent for the surgery to be done. The medical practitioner involved should make it his or her responsibility to keep the patients informed of all the decisions they are to make regarding the cataract surgery prior to the procedure. Getting a patient's consent is mainly due to the risks that may come with the surgery. However, the good news is that most cataract surgeries have a 98 percent success rate.
There are a number of complications that can be experienced in a minority of cases such as:
- permanent loss of vision
- loss of one or both eyes
The specialists involved in the diagnosis of cataracts are optometrists and ophthalmologists. The diagnosis involves a thorough medical examination of the eye. Some of the components of the examination include:
1. Medication and health history
- Your overall health and the health of your immediate family members.
- Any type of medications you had previously taken, whether over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
- Any other present medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), extreme sun exposure, and smoking.
2. History of your vision
- Any particular changes in your vision and your present vision status.
- Any history of eye diseases in your family such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
- Any eye injuries, surgeries, or any other past treatments.
- The date of the last time your eyes got checked.
3. A visual acuity testing or refraction
- The clarity of your distance and reading vision is tested through acuity tests.
- In some cases, your vision is tested by a number of contact lenses to determine whether the problem can be corrected by wearing contact lenses or regular glasses.
4. Visual field testing
- A visual field test will help determine the radius of your vision or how much side vision you have.
- A confrontation field test is the most commonly used type of visual test. The physician flashes several fingers briefly in every quadrant of your visual field while sitting in front of you.
5. An eye health evaluation
- A unique microscope that is known as a "slip lamp" is used to examine the external region of your eyes and lenses. Certain characteristics of cataracts such as clefts or fissures and white opacities or yellowish color on the lens may be detected if present.
- A special magnifying tool called an ophthalmoscope is used to perform a fundus (or dilated eye) examination. Tropicamide and other special eye drops are used to dilate and open your pupil to give the doctor clear access to the internal parts of your eye such as the optic nerve and the retina.
- The fluid pressure (aqueous humor) in your eyes is also tested.
Aging adults or adults of 40 and above should visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist at least once in every two years to get their eyes checked since they are at a higher risk of getting complications of the eyes. People with a family history of eye diseases such as glaucoma and African-Americans who are of age 35 and above should get their eyes checked at least once a year to be on the safe side.
It is also important to remember that even though an optometrist is allowed to diagnose a cataract, only an ophthalmologist can perform a cataract surgery.
Risks and Complications Associated with Cataract Surgery
Generally, risks and complications are very rare in a cataract surgery. In fact, only 2 percent of patients who have undergone a cataract surgery experience complications or risks associated with the procedure. Cataract surgeries are considered as among the safest and most successful type of surgeries nowadays. With further research and introduction of new methods and instruments to perform cataract operations, the risks with cataract operations are even getting lower.
In general, the risks of cataract surgery involve the following:
- infections (endophthalmitis)
- the detachment of the retina
- swelling of the cornea
- having a high or low pressure in the eye
- possible floaters and specks in the eye after surgery
- itching due to scarring or an infection
- a possible occurrence of double vision
- the swelling of the retina
- capsular block syndrome
Some of the above-mentioned risks may occur during the actual time of the cataract surgery. Some of them may occur days after or even years after the surgery. You are advised to do a follow-up checkup after your surgery. You might also need to restrain from doing some of your daily routine and physical exercises during the recovery period. Moreover, remember to follow your ophthalmologist's prescription and report to your doctor immediately if you notice any signs of eye complications.
- If both of your eyes are affected, they will be operated on different occasions, usually weeks apart.
- You don’t have to wait for the cataract to reach a certain point of development to be ready for surgery.
- Generally, risks and complications are very rare in a cataract surgery.