Starting around age 40, the lenses of your eyes start becoming cloudy, a condition known as cataracts. In many people, cataracts eventually become so dense that their vision becomes blurry or distorted. By age 80, more than half of Americans will have developed a cataract or had cataract surgery.
This surgery — a quick, safe procedure that involves replacing the clouded lens with a clear plastic one — offers a very effective cure. But unless your eye doctor advises otherwise, you may not need to have surgery right away.
“Most cataracts progress very slowly and can be safely observed until you feel you need better vision — for example, if you have difficulty reading or seeing street signs,” says Dr. Laura Fine, a cataract specialist and clinical instructor in ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. One of the most common early symptoms of cataracts is poor night vision, especially in the rain or when driving. People often complain of seeing glare or starbursts from headlights when driving at night, she adds.
Tips for coping with early or small cataracts
In the early stages of cataract formation, you might notice a slight decline in your vision, but not so much that it affects your day-to-day activities. In some cases, the lens simply thickens, causing nearsightedness, rather than becoming opaque. When that’s the case, the following tips can help.
- See your eye doctor for a new eyeglass or contact lens prescription.
- Put brighter lightbulbs in the lamps around your home, especially the ones you use to read or do other close work.
- Reduce glare by positioning lights directly behind you, pointed on the task (such as on the book you’re reading).
- Use magnifying lenses to read or work.
- Place contrasting colors — such as a dark blanket on a light chair — around your home to help you see better.
These measures help many people safely delay cataract surgery for years. Some end up never needing surgery. But people who rely on their eyes for detailed work, such as architects, dentists, and jewelers, may need surgery sooner than others.
Ready to consider cataract surgery? What to know beforehand
Typically, people have surgery in the eye with the denser cataract first. If the other eye has only a minimal cataract, a second eye surgery many not be needed for years. However, most people with age-related cataracts have similar disease in both eyes, and the second eye is usually done a few weeks after the first one, once it’s had a chance to heal.
Because there are follow-up visits one day and one week after each surgery, the whole process generally takes about two months in all, says Dr. Fine. People often need to plan their cataract surgeries around other medical procedures, travel, or family plans.
It’s a good idea to sort out logistics in advance, Dr. Fine notes. For example:
- In addition to a ride home after the surgery, some older patients may need drivers or caregivers to be with them for follow-up visits, and possibly to assist with administering eye drops following surgery.
- For the first few weeks after cataract surgery, it’s important to take certain precautions. During the first week, people should avoid lifting things heavier than 10 to 15 pounds. For the first two weeks, people shouldn’t wear eye makeup and should also avoid swimming, baths, and hot tubs.
Vision may be blurry in the first few days after surgery, but gradually will improve. “Most people remark that things appear brighter and clearer,” says Dr. Fine.
More than 95% of people who undergo cataract surgery end up with visual acuity of 20/40 or better. Still, most people will likely still need glasses for reading or driving.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.
2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;
2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more.
Colossians 1:10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
2 Peter 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
1 Thessalonians 4:10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,
Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,
1 Thessalonians 3:12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;
2 Peter 1:7-8 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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