You can't see as well at night. Scenery is gray or blurry. Colors are muddy. Those new halogen headlamps or ordinary headlights - or even sunlight - sometimes glare so brightly that you have to turn away. Sometimes, you even see double. Could you be detecting cataracts in your own eyes? Maybe. But detecting cataracts is always a question for your eye care specialist. If you have any of these symptoms, or if it has been more than two years since your last eye exam, it is time to pick up the phone and make an appointment.
What are cataracts? They are basically cloudy lenses of the eye and are often associated with aging. Cataracts can also be caused by injury or disease. Once detected, cataracts can be treated; and because they don't always cause symptoms, the best practice is to have regular eye exams.
How does an eye exam detect cataracts?
- See that GREAT BIG E at the top of the chart? But you can't quite make out the "d-o-p-s" in the next row? The eye exam is obviously checking for your visual strength and clarity. The fuzziness you report may mean you just need a new prescription, but could also be an indication of possible cataracts.
- The next step in the process of identifying cataracts would likely be a dilation test. The pupil of the eye is opened up or dilated by using special eye drops. The eye care examiner then checks the optic nerve and retina for damage.
- Another test is an eye pressure test. This is also called tonometry. Remember that puff of air on your eyeball that makes you jump? The test is looking for high pressure within the eye and measures how your cornea reacts to compression. Other ways of performing tonometry more accurately exist, so if your doctor has a concern about detecting cataracts, she may well use other pressure tests that require local eye anesthetic.
If your eye care specialist does detect cataracts, you will have some decisions to make. At the earliest stages, treatment may be simple: new prescriptions, avoidance of glare, limiting night driving and other lifestyle changes. But if these measures do not help, surgery may be the only alternative. Generally safe and routine, cataract surgery nonetheless has risks that you must weigh and discuss with your physician.
Detecting cataracts, especially as you age, is a vital part of good health and good eye care.