Cataracts can cause vision to become excessively clouded. Next to glaucoma, cataracts account for many of the cases of vision loss that occur. The difference between cataracts and glaucoma, though, is that the clouded lens can be removed and replaced with an artificial lens to restore sight. To date, no non-surgical treatments have been found useful in the correction of cataracts. This leads many patients to question the right timing for cataract surgery.
Sooner or Later: The Matter of Timing
Just because a cataract has been found does not mean it should be removed immediately. If the lens of the eye is only slightly cloudy and this does not interfere with daily activities, surgical removal may not be indicated – yet.
People with cataracts who do not have coexisting conditions such as glaucoma may be monitored to observe how their cataracts progress. If the changes to the cornea become so great that visual disturbances occur, such as intense glare when driving at night, or cataracts pose a challenge to seeing street signs, the computer screen, or text in a book, surgery should be considered.
While there is no value in removing cataracts promptly after diagnosis, there is also no requirement for a specific degree of severity in order for the lens to be successfully replaced. During the early days of cataract surgery, it was believed that cataracts needed to be relatively advanced before they could be removed. Improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of cataracts have made it easier to address this problem at an earlier stage of development.
As cataracts continue to develop, the covered lens becomes more rigid. This could present a slight challenge for surgery. The advanced cataract may also cause inflammation that increases the overall pressure within the eye. For this reason, patients with both cataracts and glaucoma may be monitored more closely.
When cataracts are present in both eyes, surgical removal may occur in stages. Doctors often prefer to treat each eye individually, several weeks apart.
Ultimately, the choice to have cataracts removed is completely up to the patient who is able to make an informed decision about health care. It is our intent to provide the fullest extent of information to our patients so they can determine the timing of their cataract surgery with confidence.
Learn more about cataract surgery. Call our Mililani office at 808-625-5577.