Find general information about some common eye diseases and disorders.
A cataract is not, as some people believe, a skin that grows over the eye. Instead, a cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens. The clouding can cause vision to become dim or blurred. Cataracts can also cause double vision, poor vision on bright days, and even a change in how you see colours.
Most cataracts develop as we age. Half of people between 65 and 74 years of age have at least one cataract and the percentage increases dramatically for people over 75.
Because they develop over time, it's often difficult to know if you have a cataract until you are examined by an ophthalmologist. If your doctor discovers a cataract - don't be alarmed.
Sometimes, a stronger eyeglass prescription is all that's needed to correct vision problems associated with a cataract in the early stages. However, when it progresses, many people opt for cataract surgery because of its 98% success rate.
Until twenty years ago, cataract surgery was a major procedure. Patients could only undergo the surgery once the cataract had grown or "ripened." Surgery was performed under a general anesthetic and recovery involved keeping the patient's head immobile with sand bags for up to two weeks.
Today, most cataract surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis. The operation, which can be performed at any stage of the cataract's development, involves making a small incision in the eye to remove the clouded lens and replace it with a plastic one. Generally, only a local/topical anesthetic is required for the 25-minute operation. Patients experience a dramatic improvement in their eyesight within 24-48 hours following the procedure.
Deciding on cataract surgery is entirely up to you and there is no need to make a quick decision. Patients who undergo the surgery make the decision based on their own lifestyle needs. Reasons to consider cataract surgery include:
• A loss of independence.
• Not seeing well enough, even with glasses.
• Feeling uncomfortable driving.
• Poor night vision or a sensitivity to bright light.
• Difficulty reading.
Opened in 1983, Vancouver Hospital's Eye Care Centre is a world-renowned facility specializing in all aspects of vision care. As well as being British Columbia's foremost eye care facility, the Centre is home to many internationally recognized researchers.