If cataract is neglected for long enough, cataract surgery can be more complicated, and the eye can take much longer to recover. The longer a cataract is left untreated, the more it reduces a person’s quality of life and independence.
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye, which is normally transparent.
Cataracts can cause a number of symptoms including:
- Blurred, clouded or dim vision – even with glasses or contact lenses. This can be worse for distance or near focusing, or affect both equally.
- Impaired night vision
- Altered colour perception – for example, vivid colours may seem faded
- Difficulty with driving vision, especially at night
- Lights (sunlight and headlights) seem too bright, cause glare, or are surrounded by haloes
- Difficulty focusing in dim lighting
- Frequent changes to glasses or contact lens prescription
- Double vision
Early cataract causes minimal symptoms – in fact, most patients are surprised to hear that they have mild cataracts.
Left untreated, cataracts “grow” or “mature” progressively. The speed of growth can be variable, but all patients experience progressive difficulty with vision that can interfere with day-to-day activities. This includes difficulty with reading and driving.
What happens if cataract surgery is neglected for longer period of time?
Living with cataracts can not only be difficult, it can also be dangerous. Cataracts are associated with an increased risk of injuries, falls and fractures and car accidents. In many instances, patients present for urgent surgical evaluation because their vision has become borderline for legal driving requirements.
A large study from NSW Australia, the “Blue Mountains Eye Study” showed that patients who underwent cataract surgery had a reduced risk of death. This is attributed to improved quality of life as well as reduced rates of injury.
In the end-stage, a mature cataract leads to complete loss of vision and can even cause glaucoma (eye pain and damage to the optic nerve due to high pressure).
Waiting until a cataract “matures” is no longer recommended! Modern cataract surgery is much gentler on the eye than previous methods. Delaying surgery means that you may miss out on many years of better vision and quality of life.
Cataract surgery is the most common type of eye operation performed around the world. With modern techniques, the recovery is far more rapid than it used to be, and long-term results are excellent in the majority of cases.