Q: Can cataracts really affect how you see color?
A: Many people suffer with vision impairment because of cataracts, which cloud the lens of the eye, resulting in blurry vision. This condition robs people of the ability to see clearly and enjoy their favorite activities such as reading, crafting, cooking, sightseeing, golfing, and driving. Remarkably, by the time most people turn 65 they will develop cataracts. By age 75, their cataracts can have a big effect on their vision.
But there’s good news — an eye-care professional can easily diagnose cataracts and perform a common surgery that restores vision. Patients may also be good candidates to have other vision conditions corrected at the time of surgery, reducing their dependence on glasses, now that new advanced-technology lenses are becoming available.
It’s important for people to realize that cataract symptoms don’t suddenly show up one day; it’s usually a slow and progressive dimming, dulling, and blurring of sight that seems to reduce the perceptible brightness and vividness of colors, along with making it difficult to distinguish between colors.
Not seeing colors accurately affects people more than they realize. One of my patients is a docent at an art museum who couldn’t figure out why she was struggling so much to identify or describe paintings the way she once could. But once we diagnosed the problem to be cataracts and replaced the cloudy lenses in both eyes, she was astonished by how much she had been missing and how gratified she was to see bold, vivid colors and contrast again. Like so many patients, she described cataract surgery as providing a new lease on life.
For many, the full effect of cataracts isn’t always apparent until after surgery – and the realization can be profound. A professional home decorator confessed she was choosing the wrong paint colors in her work, but only discovered this after her cataract surgery. Another patient with cataracts had purchased a car prior to surgery, only to discover afterward that the exterior was brown while he thought it was green.
According to a survey by Alcon, a global medical company specializing in eye care, 64 percent of people affected said cataracts made it difficult to see color and created challenges when working, driving, and watching TV. But after surgery, 65 percent said they were surprised by the brightness and vividness of colors again.
If you think your vision is blurry and preventing you from doing the things you love, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. And, since June is Cataract Awareness Month, it’s a great time to seek help. Don’t wait – you could be one step closer to seeing the beauty and color the world has to offer.
Brandon Ayres, M.D., is a board-certified ophthalmologist at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. He is a consultant for Alcon.