what do cataracts look like melbourne

What Do Cataracts Look Like? Discover If You Need Cataract Surgery

As cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed operations in the world, it is likely you’ve heard of cataracts before. Despite their ubiquitous nature, many people are unfamiliar with how cataracts are detected. If you’re wondering what do cataracts look like and whether you might have one that needs cataract surgery, keep reading. 

 

What Do Cataracts Look Like?

If you’re looking at yourself in a mirror, you’re not likely to notice anything different about your eyes. A cataract forms behind the coloured iris, making it difficult to see through a normal pupil (the aperture in the middle of your iris) without the appropriate equipment. However, in some cases, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a whitish glint in the pupil of another person with cataract if you’re looking at the right angle. This is a clinical sign known as leukocoria, which refers to a white pupil. As a side note, leukocoria may also be a sign of other eye conditions, including retinal cancer or a lazy eye in children, and so should never be ignored. 

 

 

You’re more likely to suspect you have a cataract from its associated visual symptoms. What do cataracts look like in your vision? The symptoms of a cataract can vary from individual to individual and can depend on the density and location of the cataract opacity. You may experience symptoms such as:

  • Deteriorating visual clarity. Although blurry vision is a common effect of cataract, not everyone will identify their vision as blurry. Instead, common descriptors for the vision experienced through a cataract include hazy, filmy, or cloudy. Some individuals may feel as though they’re looking through a dirty window or permanently smudged glasses lenses. This can translate to difficulty in recognising faces from down the street or reading the fine print on ingredient labels or medications. 
  • Increasing glare sensitivity. As the opacity of a cataract scatters light entering the eye, our eye perceives this as glare or dazzle. Depending on the location of the cataract within the lens, glare sensitivity can range from a mild irritation to debilitating glare that prevents a person from performing their usual activities. You may find oncoming car headlights to be overly dazzling or you need to reduce the brightness of your screen to view it more comfortably.
  • Decreasing contrast sensitivity. Another effect of a growing cataract is that your ability to discern differences in contrast is impaired. This can mean reading coloured text against a coloured background is increasingly difficult, or you need much brighter lighting to read any text clearly compared to several years ago. Some people may also find they have disproportionate difficulty seeing the road or cars ahead when visibility conditions are low, such as during foggy mornings or heavy rain. 

Other signs that might alert you to the presence of a cataract is a change to your colour vision or frequent prescription changes to your glasses or contact lenses. It’s important to note that none of these symptoms is unique to cataracts, and can potentially indicate other eye conditions that aren’t treatable with cataract surgery. If you’re ever concerned about your eyes or the state of your sight, see your optometrist or ophthalmologist. 

 

What Do Cataracts Look Like to An Eyecare Professional?  

Cataracts are diagnosed with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. In many cases, cataracts are detected during a routine exam, even before you notice any changes to your vision. After conducting an examination, your eyecare professional will be able to discuss their advice around cataract surgery

cataract eye condition information melbourneYour optometrist or ophthalmologist will use a few tests to diagnose a cataract. They will typically start with taking the history of your visual symptoms if you have any. Cataracts are known to be relatively slow-growing, so if you report waking up with sudden vision deterioration, your eyecare professional will know it’s not due to a cataract. It’s also important for your optometrist or ophthalmologist to get an idea of how the cataract might be impacting your daily activities and lifestyle as this may guide their recommendation around the timing of cataract surgery. For example, if you enjoy birdwatching, an early cataract is likely going to bother you at a much earlier stage compared to someone who just prefers to watch TV. Or if you’re a painter and rely on accurate colour vision, your cataracts will be more problematic and are more likely to require early cataract surgery compared to someone whose colour perception has no bearing on their usual tasks. 

Your eyecare practitioner will be able to examine your cataracts directly with an instrument called a slit lamp, which is comprised of a light source and magnification system that allows your optometrist or ophthalmologist to view various structures of the eye. Behind a slit lamp, your clinician will be able to see the density and location of the cataract. 

Age-related cataracts fall into three general categories, but often you may have more than one type at the same time. Nuclear sclerosis appears as a yellow-brown haze in the core of the lens while anterior cortical cataracts appear as greyish spokes radiating from the edge of the lens inwards. Through a slit lamp, a posterior subcapsular cataract looks like a dense white plaque on the back surface of the lens.

In order to appropriately advise you on the timing of cataract surgery, your eyecare professional will also test your visual acuity, which involves reading black letters of decreasing size against a white background. Even though you may not reach the standard “20/20 vision”, it doesn’t mean you necessarily require immediate cataract surgery, especially if you are still content with your vision. Speak to your eyecare professional on (03) 9070 3580 if you are concerned. 

 

 

Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

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After Cataract Surgery – Here’s What Not To Do To Avoid The Risks

Cataract surgery in Australia and the western world is typically considered to be a very safe procedure. Despite this, as with any medical operation, there is still a risk of a complication or adverse event occurring during the cataract surgery recovery period. If you’re about to undergo cataract surgery or have just had it done, here’s a list of after cataract surgery, what not to do

 

After Cataract Surgery, This is What Not to Do

 

Don’t drive

Your cataract surgeon will have advised you of this before you turned up to your surgery appointment. Not only may you be feeling a little groggy from the sedation, but your vision will need time to recover from the dilating drops used during the procedure and you’ll need to adjust to your new vision. In most cases, it may just take a couple of days until your ophthalmologist gives you the all-clear to get behind the wheel again. If the cataract operation has left quite a large difference in prescription between your two eyes while you’re waiting for surgery on the second eye, you may opt to avoid driving at all during the entire cataract surgery recovery period until you’ve had the second operation, as the prescription difference can affect your depth perception. 

 

 

Don’t do strenuous activities

Immediately after your cataract surgery, it’s a good idea to just put your feet up and rest for the following few days. Try to avoid any heavy lifting, whether weights at the gym or shopping bags. It’s advisable even to leave the housework, such as mopping and vacuuming until you’re feeling well again. 

 

Don’t stop your prescription eye drops early

This is a particularly important instruction for after cataract surgery, what not to do. Your cataract surgeon will prescribe you two to three bottles of eye drop medications to use during your cataract surgery recovery. You will have one bottle of antibiotics to prevent an infection from taking advantage of your eye in its vulnerable state, as well as one or two anti-inflammatory eye drops to help control the post-surgery inflammation. You may feel your eye has settled quite soon after your surgery. However, it’s important you continue to use your medicated eye drops for as long as you have been instructed. Ceasing these medications early can allow an eye infection to take hold, or for any inflammation to flare up again, complicating your healing process. 

 

Don’t buy new glasses or contacts until you’ve had your final check

Even though your eyes and vision may feel quite good within a couple of weeks after your cataract surgery, it can still take up to four to six weeks for everything to settle properly. Purchasing new glasses or contacts while your eye is still healing and your prescription still shifting may result in an incorrectly made script and a waste of money. Your cataract surgeon will advise you when it’s time to return to your optometrist to update your prescription if you still require glasses or contacts after your cataract operation. 

 

Don’t let foreign substances into your eye

During the cataract surgery recovery period, your eye is in a vulnerable state.

avoid after cataract procedure recovery melbourneWhile it’s obvious that it’s important to keep it clean, there may be some sources of contamination you haven’t thought of. In the first week or so, you may want to clean your eye by using only clean water and a cotton cleansing pad or face washer. Avoid cosmetics, soaps, detergents, facial cleansers, or other products around your eye area.

It’s also important to avoid swimming pools, saunas, hot tubs, and water at the beach while your eye is healing, as these unsterile water sources often harbour a parasite called acanthamoeba. It goes without saying that after cataract surgery, what not to do includes getting anything like dirt, dust, or debris into your eye. 

 

Don’t engage in activities with the risk of trauma

After any sort of operation, it’s best to avoid rough or very physical activities, and cataract surgery is no different. Sports that involve a risk of physical contact including wrestling, boxing, martial arts, basketball, and soccer, are best left until after your eye has healed. If you work in an occupation that comes with a risk of trauma, such as on a construction site or in the armed forces, you may want to take an extended break from work or wear additional eye and head protection if your workplace protocol allows. 

 

Don’t ignore any warning signs

As your eye heals from cataract surgery, you can expect it to feel a bit puffy, red, and gritty in the days following your operation. Your vision may not be sharp immediately, but will settle over the following month or so. However, if you experience any deterioration in your vision, increase in pain or redness, any discharge from the eye, or the presence of flashing lights or floating spots in your vision, it’s important not to ignore these signs. Contact your cataract surgeon or your local optometrist without delay. If you’re unable to get hold of an eyecare professional and you feel something is not right with your eyes or vision, be sure to take yourself to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Contact us today on (03) 9070 3580 for a consultation.

 

 

Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

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