SILENT SIGNS YOU MAY HAVE CATARACTS

They are the lead­ing cause of vi­sion loss in peo­ple over 40, but the symp­toms can be dif­fi­cult to rec­og­nize

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Front Page - BY HANA HONG

CATARACTS—cloudy or opaque ar­eas on the crys­talline lens of the eye that de­velop over time— af­fect more than 2.5 mil­lion Cana­di­ans. Most cases aren’t caught un­til they’ve pro­gressed, be­cause cataracts are pain­less and the loss of sight is sub­tle. Here’s what you should know.

1. CLOUDY OR BLURRY VI­SION

With cataracts, you might have a lo­cal­ized blurred spot or a gen­er­al­ized de­crease in vi­sion. “Blurred vi­sion is the num­ber one symp­tom,” says Dr. Rosa Braga-Mele, pro­fes­sor of oph­thal­mol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Toronto. “Most pa­tients com­plain of a de­crease in vi­sion, but cataracts can creep up on you—some pa­tients don’t even re­al­ize it’s hap­pen­ing at first.” Be­cause cataracts are dif­fi­cult to dif­fer­en­ti­ate from other diseases, such as glau­coma, you should con­sult your op­tometrist if you be­come aware of these changes.

2. DE­CREASED COLOUR PER­CEP­TION

Due to the cloud­ing of the eye, colours can be­come in­creas­ingly muddy. “Real” whites will ap­pear more yel­low in com­par­i­son. How­ever, this oc­curs at such a grad­ual pace that most pa­tients won’t no­tice the dif­fer­ence un­til after cataract surgery. “Pa­tients of­ten com­ment fol­low­ing the pro­ce­dure that they don’t

re­mem­ber see­ing such vi­brant colours. In fact, we are just restor­ing the colour vi­sion of their youth,” says Dr. Michael Nord­lund of the Cincin­nati Eye In­sti­tute.

3. SEN­SI­TIV­ITY TO LIGHT AND GLARE

You may re­al­ize that what used to be a com­fort­able level of light now makes you cringe. Lamps, head­lights and the sun will be­come your neme­ses, and the ra­di­ance em­a­nat­ing from them will fan out like a halo due to the fact that cataracts scat­ter much of the light en­ter­ing the eye.

4. DIF­FI­CULTY DRIV­ING AT NIGHT

Be­cause cataracts make it dif­fi­cult to bal­ance the con­trast be­tween the dark­ness and the bright lights from on­com­ing traf­fic, most af­fected peo­ple will have trou­ble driv­ing at night. If your eyes are ex­tra sen­si­tive to head­lights and street lamps, or if you’re hav­ing is­sues read­ing road signs, you may want to get checked out, notes Dr. Kirsten North, an Ot­tawa-based op­tometrist and con­sul­tant, pro­fes­sional prac­tice and health pol­icy at the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Op­tometrists.

5. TROU­BLE READ­ING FINE PRINT

The lens in­side the eye is com­pa­ra­ble to a cam­era lens, fo­cus­ing light onto the retina and let­ting us see things clearly both up close and far away. This lens is mostly com­prised of wa­ter and pro­tein, and the pro­tein is ar­ranged in such a way that it al­lows light to pass through. Be­cause cataracts cause the pro­tein to clump to­gether, small print may be­come dif­fi­cult to dis­cern in the eye’s re­frac­tive mir­ror.

6. DOU­BLE VI­SION

Di­plopia, more com­monly known as dou­ble vi­sion, can be an­other silent sign of cataracts. How­ever, this is not to be mis­taken as the di­plopia that comes from im­proper align­ment of the eyes. The dou­ble vi­sion, in this case, will oc­cur when look­ing through one eye.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY SPENCER FLOCK

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