Over 2.5 million Canadians suffer from cataracts in some form, including full vision loss (blackout blindness). Along with glaucoma, it is one of the primary, preventable causes of blindness in North America. As the eye ages, the lens at the front of the eye in the cornea begins to break down and harden. As the lense hardens, a natural byproduct is that the lens becomes opaque, eventually to the point of blocking light entering the eye.
Cataracts are most common in people over age 60, however they can occur at any age depending on genetics and family history, and especially if the eye has experienced an infection, trauma, or prolonged exposure to UV light. If a baby is born with cataracts due to the eye not fully forming correctly, it is a condition known as a congenital cataract, however; in almost all cases, modern medical technology has advanced to the point that if detection is made early enough, cataracts are treatable.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Possible symptoms of cataracts can include:
- Cloudy or blurred vision, especially in one area of sight
- Decreased ability to see at night
- Increased light sensitivity
- If looking at a light, seeing a distinct circle or “halo” around the light
- Fading of colour vision
- Double vision in one eye
Treatment of Cataracts
During your eye exam we will identify how developed your cataracts are and what the most appropriate treatment is. The most common treatment of cataracts involves lens replacement surgery. The surgery itself does not take much longer than a LASIK procedure, and involves opening the side of the cornea, removing the damaged lens, and replacing it with a sterile, clear artificial one that will not break down. It is one of the most common surgeries performed worldwide, and has an extremely high success rate approaching 99%.
In the rare case that surgery cannot be performed or is declined, vision management using prescription glasses can help with continued vision, however as the cataracts develop , permanent vision loss is inevitable. The best treatment plan in any event can be determined after an in-depth discussion of the risks and rewards of cataract surgery with an ophthalmologist or your Optometrist.