Diagnosing and Treating a Cataract
Prepare for your appointment
If you notice any change in your vision, make an appointment with an optometrist or an eye-care provider. If they diagnose you with cataracts, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist who can perform cataract surgery. How to prepare for your eye test:
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you are experiencing.
- Make a list of all medications you are using.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your ophthalmologist will review your medical history and symptoms to determine whether you have a cataract and will perform an eye examination. Here are some tests that he or she may use.
Visual Acuity Test
Your eye specialist will ask you to read a chart. This eye chart is used to measure how well you can read a series of letters. Your eyes are tested one at a time, while the other is covered. This test helps the ophthalmologist to determine if your vision shows signs of impairment.
Slit Lamp Examination
For this exam, the ophthalmologist will use a light and magnification to see the structures at the front of your eye. The microscope is called a slit lamp because it uses an intense line of light to highlight your lens, cornea, iris, and the space between the two. This test allows your doctor to view these structures in small sections, which makes it easier to detect any abnormalities. Using a slit lamp, they can examine your lens for signs of a cataract.
For a retinal examination, your specialist will dilate your pupils by putting drops in your eyes. These drops take 15 to 20 minutes to fully take effect. The dilution – the widening – of your pupils make it easier to examine the retina.
Your doctor may also use drops to numb the surface of your eyes. This test is part of a regular exam when you already have vision problems or other diseases like diabetes, which can cause eye problems. Your doctor will shine a bright light into your eyes to examine the retina in order to detect abnormalities.
Your vision will be blurry for several hours after the test and your pupils will appear bigger than before. Make sure to:
- Protect your eyes from the sun or other rays by wearing sunglasses.
- Avoid driving for several hours after the test until you can see clearly again.
Treating a Cataract
Cataracts cannot be treated with medication or corrected with glasses. When they are progressed and impair your vision to a degree where it negatively affects your daily life, the only effective treatment is to surgically remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an implant, a so-called intraocular lens (IOL).
Surgical treatment is very effective in restoring sight. Most patients decide to undergo the surgery when this eye disease interferes with their ability to perform normal daily activities, such as reading or driving at night. You should take your time to consider the benefits and risks of the surgery.
However, modern cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgical procedures performed today. In the past two decades, the number of surgeries performed to correct this ocular disease have increased rapidly in developed countries. Therefore, the procedure has developed to a very high standard. Over 20 million cataract surgeries are performed worldwide every year, producing excellent visual outcomes. It is up to you and your ophthalmologist to decide whether surgery is right for you.
If you choose not to undergo surgery right away, your ophthalmologist may recommend follow-up exams to see if the disease is progressing.