Taking a closer look at cataracts

Cataracts affect 2.5 million Canadians every year and are one of the leading causes of blindness and low vision in age-related eye diseases.

While the affliction is prevalent, many are blind to knowledge about cataracts, according to a survey commissioned by Alcon Canada. The survey revealed that more than half of Canadians do not know much about cataracts and cataract surgery; and 59 per cent are unaware that there are options to treat cataracts and other vision conditions at the same time.

“Our eyes are our windows to the world and no two are the same,” says Dr. Kathy Cao, a Toronto-based ophthalmologist with the Kensington Eye Institute. “It’s so important that everyone is proactive about their eye health, visiting an eye care professional every year to protect their sight, especially if there are changes in their vision.” 

As people age, their eyes change and different natural eye conditions may develop. Two of the most common aging eye conditions are presbyopia and cataracts. Presbyopia is a gradual loss in the eye’s ability to pull the lens into shape affecting our ability to focus on close objects.

A cataract is the clouding of the lens in your eye, caused from protein build up over time. For people who have cataracts, vision becomes increasingly blurry, making it difficult to see.

Vision loss can affect a patient’s ability to perform simple daily tasks and it diminishes the beauty that life has to offer through one’s vision. Colours become muted, expressions on loved one’s faces become difficult to see and activities like reading and driving become nearly impossible. It’s as if you are seeing everything through a cloud or fog.

The survey, conducted by Leger, The Research Intelligence Group, was designed to examine the perceptions of and awareness of cataracts and vision health among Canadians between the ages of 55-79.  It revealed that seeing clearly is incredibly important to Canadians — 75 per cent prioritize clearly seeing the faces of loved ones, 69 per cent want to have the ability to see details and colours more clearly, and 66 per cent want to feel more confident when travelling the world as the top reasons for wanting clear vision.

Yet, the majority of people surveyed spend very little time thinking about their vision and for those who have cataracts, 50 per cent say that fear is a barrier to seeking treatment.

“We often hear from patients that they are worried or nervous about cataract surgery,” says Dr. Cao. “While every surgery should be carefully considered, cataract surgery is generally safe and done on an outpatient basis, which means patients go home the same day after surgery, and often start to notice vision improvements within a couple of days and may return to regular life activities shortly after.”

Before having cataract surgery, it’s important that patients have informed discussions with your surgeon about your vision goals. There are a variety of different lens replacement options used during cataract surgery that can treat multiple eye conditions at once. Choosing the lens for your goals could mean seeing the world in vivid colour or not having to wear reading glasses.

For years, cataract replacement lens options were limited. Now patients have the option of trifocal lenses that provide superior vision at multiple distances allowing patients to see everything near, far and in-between. For many patients frustrated with constantly searching for reading glasses to read the paper or their phone, the opportunity to become glasses free is a huge advantage.

To learn more about cataracts, cataract surgery and lens options, visit your eye care professional to receive a comprehensive eye exam and visit SeeTheFullPicture.ca. To help with the discussion download a discussion guide.