When people discuss cataracts and cataract surgery, they usually think of vision problems encountered by older patients. This isn’t really a surprise, as it’s estimated that over 50% of people 80 and older are affected by cataracts. However, symptoms can start to appear much earlier. If you’re in Monterey County and at or over 40, you should consult an eye doctor or ophthalmologist and read this guide to learn some important information on cataracts.
They Don’t Form Over the Patient’s Eye
The most important thing to know about cataracts is that they do not actually form over the lens of the eye. Rather, they form on the inside, and vision distortion occurs when protein chains within the lens are dismantled. The process is painless, and most people don’t notice it until they need cataract surgery.
Age Doesn’t Affect a Person’s Risk
Another important fact is that a patient’s age does not put them at greater risk of developing cataracts. While they often develop in elderly patients, anyone can be afflicted. People most at risk are those with:
- Prior eye surgeries
- Sunlight exposure in the absence of protective lenses
In some cases, a patient may be born with cataracts. This can happen because of gestational infection or developmental problems due to the mother’s nutritional deficits during pregnancy.
Although cataracts progress slowly, those who pay attention may be able to recognize early symptoms. These include:
- Unclear or blurred vision
- Peripheral vision loss, which makes it increasingly harder for patients to see things that aren’t right in front of them
- Difficulty telling the difference between colors
- Problems with night vision
- Double vision
- Sudden changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
If you’re in Monterey County and have any of these symptoms, you should see an ophthalmologist or eye doctor as soon as possible.
Cataracts Can Occur in a Single Eye
While it’s common for cataracts to develop bilaterally, it’s also possible for them to develop in one eye. Singular development can occur after a patient suffers trauma on one side; that’s why it’s good to visit an eye doctor after an incident or injury involving the eyes. While some eye injuries don’t cause discomfort at the time of impact, it can take years for a patient to realize that their vision is declining.
Cataracts Can Have Different Effects on a Patient’s Vision
It is widely believed that the presence of cataracts implies a patient’s inability to see properly. However, some patients can have cataracts without adverse effects on their vision, except for a greater sensitivity to light. Some may see well in natural light and encounter difficulty when there’s little light. Above all, patients should know that all cataracts are unique.
Cataract Surgery Isn’t Always the Best Option
A person who starts encountering issues with cataracts may be able to get good results from less invasive treatments. Some patients can go years before they need cataract surgery, thereby avoiding the problems associated with these procedures. Patients should consult an eye doctor to weigh the benefits and risks of surgery against the effects of cataracts on daily life. With help from a doctor, patients can make an informed decision, and in some cases, a patient may only need medication and regular monitoring.
Surgery is Safe and Rather Common
It’s perfectly normal for patients to be apprehensive or fearful when a doctor says they need cataract surgery. However, the procedure is very safe and extremely common. The success rate for the procedure is 96%, which makes it one of the safest and most effective medical treatments. Surgery only requires a small incision under local anesthesia, and stitches are not required. The surgeon removes the eye’s natural lens, clears away built-up debris and implants another lens. The entire process takes about 20 minutes, and patients can go home within hours.
Recovery is Quick
Afterward, the patient will have to wear protective eye gear, and they should refrain from strenuous physical activity for at least two weeks. Many patients see results almost immediately, and over the weeks following the surgery, their normal vision will return completely. With surgery, most patients can see better than they have in years.
Regular Eye Doctor Visits are the Best Way to Prevent Problems With Cataracts
Patients should visit the eye doctor at least one time a year to prevent cataracts and other eye problems. During a yearly visit, the doctor will ask whether the patient has encountered any of the above-listed symptoms. The doctor can tell whether these symptoms are a sign of cataracts or another issue, and he or she can give advice on slowing the progression of cataracts. While most people believe that cataracts are a problem that only old people face, they can affect patients of any age. However, by learning the signs and symptoms of cataracts, a well-informed patient can learn when it’s time to seek preventive treatment or even cataract surgery. If you’re in Monterey County and need an experienced and highly-rated ophthalmologist or eye doctor contact Monterey Bay Eye Center for an appointment. You can also take our Cataract Self Candidacy Test here. Your eyes will thank you!