By the age of 70, over one-half of all Americans have cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye due to oxidative damage from the sun and other environmental factors. This eye condition can develop much earlier, even by the age of 40, and many men and women are choosing cataract surgery earlier than ever.
Being diagnosed with cataracts does not mean that you must schedule surgery right away. Rather, this is a decision that you and your eye surgeon will make together. In the early stages, cataracts may not affect your eyesight and your doctor may be able to correct slight changes in vision with prescription lenses. Over time, the cataract will mature and cause vision loss that will begin to interfere with your daily activities.
Cataract surgery is one of the most common and safe outpatient procedures among Medicare beneficiaries in the United States. To assist you in determining when you should have cataract surgery, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has developed a list of four questions:
- Are cataracts negatively impacting your daily or occupational activities? Common symptoms of cataracts are blurred vision, double vision, lack of contrast, increased glare, and sensitivity to light. This can make activities like reading, driving, cooking, or doing housework or yard work increasingly difficult.
- Are your cataracts affecting your ability to drive safely at night? Another symptom of cataracts is the appearance of “halos” around lights and difficulty seeing in low light conditions. This can make driving extremely challenging and even dangerous.
- Are your cataracts interfering with the outdoor activities you enjoy? Sensitivity to light can be distracting, annoying and even painful because of your cataracts, and this may discourage you from spending time outside.
- Can you manage your cataracts in other ways? If you are not ready for cataract surgery, can you compensate for changes in your vision by using brighter light bulbs and contrasting colors in your home and workplace? Other small changes may include using a magnifying glass for reading or purchasing polarized sunglasses to reduce glare.
The best decision that you can make is an informed decision. Make an appointment with your eye care professional to talk about when you should schedule cataract surgery. To read more about cataract symptoms, take our Cataract Symptoms Quiz (Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology).