Cataracts can greatly impair eyesight and significantly lower quality of life. The risk of developing cataracts increases with age, and cataracts worsen with time.
Getting tested for cataracts is the best way to catch them before they negatively impact quality of life.
When is it time for a cataract test?
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of cataracts include:
- Clouded, blurred or dim vision
- Increasing difficulty with vision at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Seeing "halos" around lights
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Double vision in a single eye
If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, it’s definitely time to schedule an eye exam with a optometrist or ophthalmologist. You also need to schedule an eye exam if you experience any change in vision—even if it’s not one of the symptoms listed above.
What To Expect at a Cataract Exam
A cataract exam is very similar to a traditional eye exam. It generally includes:
- Reading an eye chart. The optometrist or ophthalmologist will have you read an eye chart one eye at a time to determine whether you have 20/20 vision, or an eyesight impairment.
- Examining the eye with light and magnification. To detect small abnormalities, your eye doctor will use a microscope with a line of light to inspect your cornea, iris, and lens.
- Eye dilation. It is likely that your eye doctor will use drops to dilate your eyes so they can better examine the back of your eye.
Your eye doctor will also use the exam as a time to ask you about any issues you have been experiencing with your sight. It’s also the perfect time to ask your doctor any questions you may have about cataracts, cataract surgery, insurance coverage, and more.
The only treatment for cataracts is cataract removal surgery.
Your eye doctor will know best when it’s the right time for you to get cataract surgery. Generally, you will not need surgery until your quality of life is negatively affected by cataracts—including the inability to drive and difficulty reading.
Delaying getting surgery does not make it less likely for you to recover, as cataracts generally do not harm the eye. However, if you choose not to go through surgery, your eye doctor will most likely recommend routine eye exams.
Cataract surgery removes the lens that is clouded by a cataract and replaces it with an artificial lens. It is most often performed as an outpatient procedure and using localized anesthesia. The recovery time is around eight weeks. If you need cataract removal in both eyes, it is common to have the surgery for the second eye performed a month or two after the first surgery.
Cataracts are uncomfortable to live with, but luckily the surgery to remove them is a common and effective fix. Just make sure to start getting eye exams before you find out you have cataracts—so you live with them for as little time as possible!