At What Age Do Cataracts Develop?
Most patients become aware of cataracts after the age of 60. However, cataracts start developing much earlier than that in the form of DLS, or Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome. Your natural lens goes through a normal aging process, which may cause changes in your vision from the age of 40. There isn’t a cure to DLS or cataracts, as they are simply part of the aging process. DLS eventually turns into cataracts, which will turn to blindness without surgical intervention.
If you have any of the signs and symptoms of DLS or cataracts, it is important to get in touch with your ophthalmologist in NSW or Canberra to diagnose and discuss treatment options.
Let’s go over the stages of developing cataracts so that you have a better idea about the process and can understand what’s going on if you are starting to experience issues with your vision.
Stage 1: Early DLS
Often, patients in their 40s will start to experience early DLS as the natural lens becomes less clear and pliable. The most common side effect of this is the patient’s loss of ability to focus on objects that are near.
When the DLS is in this early stage, the natural lens will still appear clear and won’t show any signs of clouding. It is, however, much stiffer than it was, which causes the loss of flexibility that would allow focusing on near objects. This is a very common aging in the natural lens called presbyopia, and it affects everyone eventually.
Treatment Options for Stage 1
While the patient may not seek the diagnosis from an ophthalmologist if they are suffering from other issues such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness or astigmatism, it is important to recognise any changes to vision. These other visual issues could only serve to complicate the situation further.
Patients suffering from this early stage of DLS should consider refractive surgery options, such as LASIK monovision or KAMRA presbyopic corneal inlay. These treat near vision problems, allowing the patient to revive their functional near vision without having to use corrective eyewear.
Stage 2: Advanced DLS
DLS will progress if left untreated. Patients in their 50s and 60s will notice that their eye’s natural lens is turning yellow and slightly cloudy. The next noticeable symptom is blurry vision and reduced night vision quality due to glare. This loss of vision can lead to a loss of confidence on the road, which should never be taken lightly. Another sign of Stage 2 DLS is when a patient needs to replace their glasses or contact lenses because the natural lens begins to change over time. Patients may also find themselves requiring more intense light in order to read fine print or see more clearly.
Treatment Options for Stage 2
Patients can elect to correct their vision permanently. This will stop the progression of cataracts.
Stage 3: Cataracts
Around half of Australians aged 65 to 74 have cataracts. When patients with DLS age past 60, the natural lens will become cloudy and interfere with vision by diffusing light as it passes through the eye, which is classified as a cataract. There are a few types of cataract, and each may display a number of different symptoms. Some symptoms include blurry, distorted or double vision, progressive loss of vision, white or milky spot over the eye, etc. Read more about the signs and symptoms of cataracts here.
Treatment Options for Stage 2
Early treatment is important in improving your visual outcome and preventing risks. Untreated cataracts can cause secondary glaucoma and blindness. The most successful treatment is to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens. Cataract surgery is very routine and doesn’t require a long recovery time.