If you love British royalty and follow their every move, you may have noticed that the Queen has been seen wearing sunglasses during her public appearances lately, something out of character to say the least. Many speculated that perhaps she was making a fashion statement until Buckingham Palace announced that she had undergone minor cataract surgery.
A spokesman for the palace was quoted saying, "I can confirm that the Queen successfully underwent a short, planned procedure to treat a cataract last month."
Queen Elizabeth II just turned 92 in April and didn't let something like surgery hold her back from her many engagements. Instead, she simply donned her sunglasses and went about her royal business.
According to the National Eye Institute, by age 80 more than 50 percent of Americans will have a cataract or will have undergone surgery to correct one. A cataract occurs when protein in the lens of the eye clumps together and causes clouding in a small area of the eye.
"In a healthy eye, light passes through the lens into the retina, where it is changed into nerve signals that are then sent to the brain," said Dr. Mayli Davis of Advanced Eyelid Surgery Center in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. "If the lens isn't clear, the image will be blurry."
The most common symptoms of cataracts are cloudy or blurry vision, perceiving colors as faded, a halo effect around lights, poor night vision, double vision and a frequent need to change eyeglass prescriptions.
A series of are tests used to detect and diagnose a cataract and to determine its location and severity. A visual acuity test is the first step to testing for a cataract. It's a common eye exam used to test vision, even in childhood. The next test to diagnose cataracts is a dilated eye exam. In this test, drops are placed in the eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupils. Then, a specialized magnifying lens helps to examine the retina and optic nerve to check for any eye problems or damage. Finally, a tonometry tool can be used to check the pressure inside the eye after numbing drops are applied for comfort.
After diagnosis, it's time to discuss treatment options. For some patients, early symptoms can be managed with different glasses or magnifying lenses, but if vision loss begins to interfere with your daily life, Davis recommends surgery.
"Cataract surgery is one of the most common and one of the safest operations performed in the United States," she said. "The surgery usually only takes about an hour and most patients go home the same day."
Any discomfort and sensitivity from the surgery usually only lasts a few days, and it's common for healing to be complete within eight weeks of the surgery.