Your eyes are an integral part of your health. In order to ensure your eyes are healthy, Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends having regular eye exams with an optometrist. To find an optometrist closest to you, visit the College of Optometrists of BC’s website at optometrybc.com. There, you will be able find information on optometry offices that are accepting patients as well as detailed information on the role of optometrists.
Throughout the entire month of June, Dr. Ali Ghahary and the Canadian Association of Optometrists are working to raise awareness on cataracts and eye health as part of Cataract Awareness Month. Currently, there are close to 3 million Canadians the have cataracts. While cataracts are painless, they are a leading cause of vision loss, which is why treating them is so important. Cataracts are often discovered during a routine eye exam with your optometrist. They develop within the existing lenses of the eye, and can form in one or both eyes – at the same or different times.
The lenses of the eye are made up of protein and water that works to keep the lens clear and allows in light. However, when those proteins clump together or harden, the light is then blocked from reaching the retina and affects one’s vision.
Upon initial diagnoses, a patient may not even be aware that they do have a cataract, as they initially do not impact your vision. However, over time, the cataract can grow larger, which then makes it harder to see. Along with cloudy or blurred vision, other signs of cataracts include difficulty seeing at night, the need for brighter light when reading, trouble distinguishing colours or seeing colours that appear faded, double vision, and frequent eyeglass prescription changes. Over time, individuals with cataracts may notice glares from lights and also have an increased sensitivity to light.
There are different types of cataracts that one can develop:
• Age-related cataracts
• Traumatic cataracts
• Radiation cataracts
• Congenital cataracts
• Secondary cataracts
Age-related cataracts are the most common and are usually found in older individuals. However, it is also possible for them to develop in someone as early as the age of 40. Traumatic cataracts are the result of injury to the eye by blunt force (such as a first or ball hitting the eye) or penetrating injury (such a sharp object entering the eye) and can happen at any age. You can develop traumatic cataracts as soon as a few weeks of the injury itself, or months to years later. Radiation cataracts occur as a result of prolonged/overexposure to UV radiation – either from sunlight or tanning bed. Individuals who work outdoors are more susceptible to developing this type of cataract, and should take precautions by wearing sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection as well as wide-brimmed hats. Babies can also be born with cataracts – this is known as congenital cataracts and they are usually inherited as a result of the mother having a certain illness or infection during her pregnancy. Surgery is usually needed in order for the child’s vision to normally progress. Other medical conditions such as diabetes or long-term use of oral steroids can also cause cataracts – this is referred to as secondary cataracts.
In the early stage of cataracts, your vision may improve with new eyeglasses, different/brighter lighting, as well as anti-glare sunglasses. However, if those simple measures have no benefit, then surgery will be the only effective way to treat cataracts, which involves removing the affected lens and having it replaced with an artificial lens.
While cataract surgery can seem scary, Dr. Ali Ghahary notes that it is safe. It usually takes no longer than 15 minutes to perform, and and the recovery should be uneventful and without complication as long as you follow the post-op directions provided to you from your surgeon. Upon surgery, a patch will be placed over your eye – this is to protect your eye from bright light. Some surgeons will allow you to remove the patch a few hours after surgery, while others will request that you leave it on for a few days. Upon removal of the patch, do not be alarmed if your vision appears blurry or cloudy. It may take some time for your vision to adjust. Your eyes may also appear red or bloodshot after cataract surgery, but this will dissipate. Following your surgery, you may also be provided with antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops. This is to help prevent infection and reduce any inflammation. Your surgeon will make a foll0w-up appointment with you – approximately 1 week after surgery – to see how you are feeling and to make sure that the healing process is going as it should.