As an ophthalmologist at Vancouver Clinic, my passion is to help people maximize their vision so that they can enjoy the best quality of life. So much of what we experience as humans happens through our eyes. It’s important that we can see with the greatest color and clarity possible.
One diagnosis that can be particularly disruptive to an individual’s vision is cataracts. Cataracts are extremely common. In fact, virtually everyone gets them as they get older. Cataracts are basically a result of the lens in the eye aging and getting cloudy.
Your lens starts to lose elasticity around age 40 to 45, making up-close vision more challenging. You might notice that prescription bottles and newsprint are harder to read. Around age 60, the lens starts to yellow and discolor. This can lead to other symptoms:
- Trouble reading in low light
- Difficulty driving in the rain and at night
- Appearance of glare and halos
- Reduced color vibrancy.
Sometimes cataracts are small enough, or symptoms are manageable enough, that they just need to be monitored. Generally, if cataracts aren’t interfering with daily life, there’s no need for surgery. When driving and other tasks become difficult, that’s when it’s time to think about removing them.
The good news is that cataract surgery is quick, low-risk, and highly successful for most patients. During surgery, an ophthalmologist such as myself will use an ultrasound probe that transmits waves to break up the cataract. Once the pieces are removed, the ophthalmologist will put in a new lens. The whole procedure takes about 10 minutes per eye. Most patients start to see their vision improve within a day or two of the surgery.
I’ve discovered that most people are amazed by the change in their eyes after this procedure. People don’t realize how bad their cataracts were until they’re gone. Because cataracts form gradually, people adapt to the changes in their vision and don’t notice how muted colors have become or how much clarity they’ve lost.
One of the things I love about my profession is seeing patients at their post-operative visit and hearing their excitement. They are almost universally thrilled with the improvement in their color vision, clarity, and ability to drive at right. It’s really satisfying to see patients enjoy that significant improvement with such a quick procedure.
If you are concerned about deterioration in your vision, or think you might have cataracts, I encourage you to make an appointment with an eye doctor. An ophthalmologist can address your cataracts and check for other conditions that might be impacting your vision.
For patients who are already diagnosed and are considering surgery for cataracts, I always recommend talking with your provider about what you want your vision to be like in the future. Taking out your natural lens and implanting an intraocular lens is a procedure that happens just once in your life. Artificial lenses can be designed to do different things, from fixing astigmatism to offering multifocal capabilities that allow you to see better at multiple distances. Settling on the right one for you is extremely important. Your ophthalmologist can answer questions about your options and offer guidance based on your eyesight and lifestyle.
Finally, even if you’re feeling confident with your vision, it’s always wise for anyone 50 and over to receive a baseline eye exam and to get re-checked every other year after that. In addition to cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration can start to become a problem at this age. Staying on top of issues can help you and your doctor protect your vision for another 50 years.
Dr. Evan Olson is a comprehensive ophthalmologist at Vancouver Clinic. He has a particular interest in cataract surgery, laser surgery, and advanced technology intraocular lens implantation.