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Can untreated cataracts cause long-term damage to the eye?

Eye Health Cataracts

My father was diagnosed with cataract almost a year ago, but he hasn’t gone for a surgery. I’ve heard that cataracts become hard if not removed for long and you might potentially turn blind. Is this true?

DOCTOR’S ANSWER (2)

Indeed cataracts when they progress (which they almost certainly will) can potentially cause poor vision.  Usually cataract-related blindness is reversible, i.e. once the cataract is removed, vision should be restored.

However, cataracts may indirectly or directly contribute to other problems such as glaucoma, which can cause IRREVERSIBLE BLINDNESS.  It is important to find out if there is a risk of glaucoma and if the lens / cataract is associated with the risk.  In some cases, early cataract surgery is recommended to reduce the risk of narrow angle glaucoma.

Also, cataracts when very advanced becomes very hard.  Sometimes eye docs call them "rock-hard". One super hard cataract I operated on several months ago was even called a "diamond" by the referring doctor. The problem with cataract operation for such hard cataracts is that the surgical risk rises.  Not only is the surgery time required longer, the phacoemulsification (ultrasound) energy also increases, and that may cause some damage to the inner lining of the cornea, resulting in swelling and longer recovery time, and even contribute to long term cornea disease that may end up requiring a corneal transplant.

Fortunately nowadays, to reduce the risk of cataract surgery in such hard cataracts, eye doctors can rely on femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery to reduce the ultrasound energy.  I routinely use this laser technology for hard cataracts, and results in my hands for such hard cataracts using laser surgery are comparable to normal cataracts without lasers.

I hope that your dad gets his cataract surgery done sooner rather than later.  Cataract surgeries are nowadays highly successful surgery, especially in the hands of experienced surgeons.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1672718796085457&set=a.1672718782752125&type=3&theater

Best wishes,

Dr Daphne Han

690 views 1 Oct 2018

Thanks for D2D. Yes, this is true although the likelihood is uncommon in a developed country like Singapore where healthcare is accessible to the population.

If cataracts become “hard” or dense, it can block the patient’s vision resulting in poor vision or “blindness”, but this condition can potentially be corrected with cataract surgery.

However, when the cataract becomes “intumescent”, “swollen” or “hypermature”, it may result in inflammation or very high eye pressure. This type of cataract may result in permanent blindness as the nerve of the eye may be damaged from the inflammation or from the high pressure. 

For most of my patients with significant cataract, I recommend them to undergo cataract surgery which is safe and effective,  to enjoy good vision.

715 views 28 Sep 2018
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