Cataracts pose few symptoms in their early stages. To properly assess cataracts, you’ll need to get a dilated eye exam so your doctor can see the inside of your eye. They may also run additional tests to help detect and grade your cataracts. Here’s a breakdown of the process.
How Are Cataracts Diagnosed?
Your eye doctor will check for signs of cataracts and other eye problems during a routine exam. Most likely, your doctor will use a combination of the following tests and exams to detect cataracts and assess their development.
Visual Acuity Testing
During a routine eye exam, your doctor will conduct a few visual acuity tests that may reveal degraded vision. Blurry vision, faded colors, difficulty seeing at night, and increased sensitivity to light are all associated with cataracts. Changes in your near or distance vision are also a cause for concern.
If you or your doctor suspect there are issues with your eyes, they will conduct additional exams, and a slit-lamp examination is typically the next step.
A slit-lamp examination uses a special type of microscope that allows your doctor to magnify your eye so they can take a close look at your lens. With this up-close view, they will be able to diagnose cataracts in your eye and determine the severity.
Slit-lamp exams are quick and painless, you’ll simply need to place your chin on the chin rest and your doctor will direct a light toward your eye and look through the device to examine your lens.
Contrast Sensitivity Testing
Contrast sensitivity testing is another way your eye doctor can evaluate your vision and check for potential signs of cataracts. While not always used in the diagnosis process, your doctor can conduct a contrast sensitivity test to determine if you’re having trouble distinguishing between different shades of shades of gray.
Difficulty telling similar shades apart are a tell-tale sign of certain types of cataracts, so poor performance on this test will likely lead your doctor to investigate further. The typical visual acuity testing tests your vision in a high contrast setting, but testing contrast sensitivity may detect subtle changes in vision that may be more reflective of real-world vision.
Dilated Fundus Exam
A retinal exam, is often used to diagnose cataracts. Your doctor will give you a few drops of a special medication in each eye, which will cause your pupils to widen.
Once your pupil has expanded, your eye doctor will be able to see the entire lens in your eyes. This view is necessary to determine if you have cataracts and to assess their severity. This exam also allows your doctor to assess the health of your retina.
When Should You Schedule an Eye Exam?
If you have any concerns about your eye health, or you’re experiencing changes to your vision, you should schedule a comprehensive eye exam sooner rather than later. Cataracts cannot be prevented, reversed, or slowed down — but they can be removed once you have a proper diagnosis.
If you’re over the age of 40, you should schedule a comprehensive eye exam at least every other year. Those over 65 should have a comprehensive exam annually. A comprehensive exam means your doctor will go beyond visual acuity tests.
What to Expect at Your Eye Appointment
During your comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will walk you through a series of tests, usually starting with basic visual acuity tests and contrast sensitivity testing, then perform a slit-lamp examination and dilated fundus exam. Remember to let your doctor know about any concerns you have about your vision.
You can prepare for your appointment by:
- Making note of any changes to your near or distance vision since your last appointment
- Checking to see if your current prescription still feels right for your eyes
- Asking yourself if you’ve noticed changes to your sight, like the need to make lights brighter at night or to wear glare-reducing sunglasses during the day
If you suspect you might have cataracts, come prepared with a list of questions, and your eye doctor will be happy to answer them for you.
Cataracts cannot be prevented or reversed. Most people will develop cataracts at some point, and the only way to get rid of them is to have them surgically removed. It is the most common surgery in the United States and is safe.What Happens During Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning you do not need to be hospitalized. Minimal anesthesia is needed for most cataract surgery patients, so you can be mildly sedated during the process. To begin, your doctor will give you a sedative to help you relax and will also numb your eye to ensure the procedure is painless.
During surgery, your eye doctor will make a small opening in your eye and then use a laser to break up your eye’s damaged lens. The broken up lens will be removed and your doctor will replace it with an artificial lens. The entire process takes about an hour.
After surgery, you’ll be able to go home.
Should You Get Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery can be performed as soon as you are diagnosed with cataracts and when you are experiencing related symptoms.
Cataracts will continue to worsen until they are removed, and late-stage cataracts may be more difficult to remove since they make the lens denser and harder to break up and take out. If you have questions or concerns about surgery, the best person to ask is your eye doctor.
Need to Schedule an Eye Exam?
If you have questions about your eye health, it’s time to schedule a comprehensive exam with your eye doctor. Book a consultation with SuraVision today by calling 713-730-2020 or start with the Cataract Self Test.