How your life feels like its shrinking before you get cataract surgery

Cataracts are a fact of life.

The human lens ages as we age and the lens inside our eye loses transparency over time. Just as we cannot stop wrinkles from developing or a change in the colour of our hair, we cannot prevent cataracts from forming entirely. Just as the ageing change in our skin and joints vary from individual to individual so does cataract formation. There is no set rate of clouding of the human lens.

Cataract operations are increasing year by year

Proof are these numbers about cataracts in the UK:

  • Cataracts account for one-third of visual impairment in people over the age of 75
  • There were 389,000 cataract operations carried out in the UK in 2010
  • Cataract surgery is the most common operation done in the NHS
  • By 2020, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists anticipate that we will do 474,000 cataract operations (an increase of 22%)

The rise in cataract operations is partly due to our ageing population but is also due to the increased success rate of the micro-incisional phacoemulsification technique we use now. Patients can have cataract surgery much earlier and more safely with the latest surgical and lens technology.

I frequently see people in their 50’s whose vision changes very dramatically in 18 months due to cataract progression

I also see patients in their 90’s whose cataracts do not trouble them and don’t need surgery. The main thing to be aware of with cataracts is that you will notice that your vision is changing. Colours often seem less intense or “true.” That can be very difficult for people who work or have an interest in design, painting, artistry and crafts. They can affect your driving confidence as cataracts often act like frosted glass causing dazzle from oncoming headlights, especially when driving at night or when the sun is low in the sky. These changes in vision can affect everything you do day to day. We also know that poorer vision is linked to falls and increased risk of hip & wrist fractures.

Improving the vision of a person with dementia can help their cognitive function significantly. At first, a change in glasses can adjust for early cataract change. However, there comes the point when your optician can no longer change the strength of glasses to make your vision clearer and will often recommend you see a specialist to discuss surgery. A good cataract specialist will ask you about your work & hobbies to assess how cataracts affect you on a day to day basis. That means we can make personalised recommendations about cataract surgery for you as an individual.

The most common things I hear at the first cataract post-operative consultation are…

“The colours are wonderful”,

“I hadn’t realized how dull/bad my vision was” and

“How soon can you do the other eye?”

If you find yourself frustrated by lack of clarity of your vision in the things you enjoy doing or need to do every day make a positive decision not to live with the annoyance any longer; have a cataract assessment and look forward to the return of the technicolour world.