Cataract

Cataracts are a very common reason people lose the quality of their vision, but they can be treated. Dr John Chang provides a personalised treatment plan for his patients, carefully explaining all the options.

  • Light rays entering the eye with a clear lens are focused properly on the retina.

    Image from American Academy of Ophthalmology: Cataract Surgery

  • Light rays entering an eye with a cataract are not focused properly on the retina.

    Image from American Academy of Ophthalmology: Cataract Surgery

What is a cataract?

Inside our eyes, we have a natural lens which focuses light rays that come into the eye onto the retina to help us see clearly (somewhat analogous to the lens in a camera). This lens should be clear. When you develop a cataract, your lens becomes cloudy. It is like looking through a foggy or dirty glasses lens or car windscreen. Things look blurry, hazy or less colourful with a cataract.

What are symptoms of a cataract?

As cataracts usually develop slowly over a period of years, the symptoms are usually more insidious and gradual in onset. As the cataract becomes more significant and symptomatic, you may notice some of the following changes in your vision:

  • Having blurry vision that is not much improved with stronger glasses prescription
  • Difficulty reading the sports score or subtitles on the TV
  • Glare when driving and haloes or ghosting around oncoming headlights
  • Difficulty reading the fine print or needing more light when you read
  • Difficulty playing sports such seeing the golf ball due to glare on sunny or overcast days
  • Seeing bright colours as faded, dull or more yellowish instead
What causes cataracts?
Cataract (posterior subcapsular type) in a patient with uveitis (as seen on specialized microscope to examine the eye).

Cataract (posterior subcapsular type) in a patient with uveitis (as seen on specialized microscope to examine the eye).

Ageing is the most common cause of cataracts. Due to inevitable ageing changes to the proteins in the natural lens that starts around age 40-50, the lens starts to get gradually yellow and cloudy. Other causes of cataracts include: having spent a lot of time in the sun, especially without sunglasses that protect your eyes from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays; certain medical problems such as diabetes and uveitis (intraocular inflammation); use of certain medications such as corticosteroids whether it be by tablet, inhaler or eye drops; and having had an eye injury or eye surgery. Some of these can cause cataract in younger people.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

Cataracts are diagnosed by specialized eye examination by your eye health professional such as optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye doctor). Usually, pupil dilating eye drops are needed to fully examine the lens and with a special illuminating microscope, the eye specialist will be able to diagnose the severity and type of cataract. Not all cataracts are the same, and there are in fact several different types of cataracts, such as nucleosclerotic, cortical or posterior subcapsular cataracts. They can have differing impacts on your vision as well as different rates of progression. Although most cataracts develop gradually, some can develop as quickly as within 6 months and have a relatively quick impact upon your visual deterioration.

It also important that your eye specialist ensures that there are no other eye conditions such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma, that may be causing your visual difficulties instead of, or in addition to your cataract. This will determine what treatment options are best for you. Dr John Chang provides a personalised treatment plan for his patients, carefully explaining all the options.

How are cataracts treated?

The only definitive treatment for cataracts is eye surgery where the cloudy lens (cataract) will be removed and then replaced with an artificial lens. This new lens is called an intraocular lens (or IOL). When you decide to have cataract surgery, Dr Chang will talk to you about the various different types of IOLs and which one may be the best option for you. Cataract surgery is a very safe and effective operation which cures you of your cataract. Once removed, cataracts do not “grow back” again.

When are my cataracts suitable or “ready” for cataract surgery?

Not all patients with cataracts need surgery. If your visual symptoms are not bothering you very much, you don’t have to have cataract surgery. However, you should consider surgery when cataracts are causing noticeable visual symptoms that keep you from doing things you want or need to do such as driving, reading, watching the TV/computer screen, or your leisure activities such as knitting or playing sports. For some people, their vision drops below requirement for their driver’s license, in which case cataract surgery is needed as a high priority should they need to continue to drive safely.

You and your eye surgeon should discuss your cataract symptoms. Together you can decide whether you are ready for cataract surgery. This requires a thorough eye examination as well as consideration of any co-existing eye conditions, your visual needs and wants, and a tailored, personalised advice from your eye surgeon.

Learn more about Cataract Surgery at Strathfield Eye Surgery  

For more information on cataract surgery, please call Strathfield Eye Surgery for an appointment.