Cataracts are a normal part of ageing. It is uncommon to find someone over age 70 without some level of cataract development.
At Peninsula Lifetime Eyecare Centre, we work with hundreds of patients in the Sidney area to not only detect cataracts, but to monitor their progression, manage the visual impacts they cause, and when appropriate, provide a referral to experienced ophthalmologists for assessment and cataract surgery.
Who Can Develop Cataracts?
According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, more than 2.5 million Canadians live with cataracts. Anyone could develop a cataract, however, those with diabetes or other specific medical conditions are particularly likely to experience it.
Age is the single biggest factor. Someone at the age of 70 is more than 3.5x as likely to develop cataracts than someone at the age of 40; someone at the age of 80 is more than 5x as likely. While rare, children can be born with cataracts. These cases are called congenital cataracts.
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract occurs when the natural crystalline lens ages, becoming less elastic and more opaque. The lens is made primarily of transparent fluid and proteins. Initially, these proteins are spaced evenly enough to allow light to pass through unobstructed. As time goes on, however, these proteins migrate closer together and undergo structural changes. This makes it more difficult for light to pass through the lens and focus on the retina, resulting in blurred or dulled vision.
The following are several risk factors that are known to increase the prevalence of cataracts:
- Exposure to Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight & other sources
- Some medications
- Previous eye injury or inflammation
- Previous eye surgery
- Family history
- Alcohol consumption
Our eye care experts in Sidney, BC can help you with an array of eye conditions, including cataracts, conjunctivitis, glaucoma, diabetic eye exam, macular degeneration and more.
A cataract will be diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. Fortunately, cataracts are not difficult to detect and are easily monitored once found.
There are several ways a cataract may be diagnosed during an exam:
- Visual acuity test – Sudden changes to your vision are often the signal of a deeper problem. Since cataracts directly interfere with our ability to see, a visual acuity test is often the first clue that a cataract is forming.
- Retinal examination – This test is usually performed using dilating drops; eye drops designed to enlarge your pupil, giving us a wider window through which to view your eye’s interior. The opticians then uses specialised equipment to examine your eye. A cataract is often plainly visible during this test.
- Slit-lamp examination – Using a powerful light source and specialised magnifying equipment, the opticians examines the eye. Small changes to the lens are plainly visible in this test, including cataract development.
Once diagnosed, your eye doctor will recommend a variety of strategies to mitigate the impact the cataract will have on your life. Initially, adjusting your corrective eyeglass lens prescription is sufficient to address the changes a cataract makes to your vision.
As of 2017, the only effective way to properly treat cataracts is with surgery. Cataract surgery removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an intraocular lens, an artificial lens that is impervious to future cataract development. Complications are unlikely, as is patient discomfort. The entire surgery takes only about 15 minutes per eye.
Once we identify that you are a candidate, we will refer you to a skilled ophthalmologist who will perform the surgery. We will follow-up with you post surgery to ensure the eye is healing properly and assess your new vision.