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Understanding Cataract

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Image is from Medical News Today

What is a Cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the clear lens that filters light in your eye. Cataracts can interfere with your vision and can slowly develop over time or can enlarge quite suddenly. Cataracts are often diagnosed on routine eye exams, but sudden changes in vision should be reported to an eye doctor.

Symptoms of a Cataract

Signs and symptoms of cataracts can vary depending on the size of the cataract and how far advanced at is. Some of the most common symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Blurry or clouded vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Problems with glares
  • Frequent eyeglass and contact lens prescription changes
  • Clouding of the middle part of the eye
  • Halo effect when looking at lights
  • Double vision in only one eye
  • Needing increased light to do activities such as reading, sewing, or puzzles

A cataract may start as a small spot of blurry vision in your eye and get noticeably worse as time goes on. Regular check-ups with your doctor will help to track the development of the cataract and come up with a proper treatment plan.

What Causes Cataracts?

While cataracts typically develop as you age, there are other issues that can lead to cataracts. Injuries to your eye or surgical procedures can damage the lens of your eye leading to cataracts later in life. Genetics and long-term medical conditions such as diabetes also increase your risk of developing cataracts.

Types of Cataracts

There are four different types of cataracts that you may be diagnosed with. These usually differ by how they develop as well as their location.

Nuclear Cataracts

A nuclear cataract usually begins with a disturbance in your near-sighted vision. As the cataract develops, it will become yellow and more cloudy before becoming brown and will eventually cause a disturbance in both close and far vision.

Cortical Cataracts

Cortical cataracts will begin as white streaks throughout the lens that will eventually spread to the middle, causing more vision disturbance as more light is blocked.

Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts

This type of cataract typically starts a small opaque area towards the back part of the lens that sits directly in the pathway of the light trying to come through. Posterior subcapsular cataracts will often spread quicker than most and tend to affect reading vision and vision in bright lights. It often creates halos and glare issues.

Congenital Cataracts

Congenital cataracts are ones that a child is born with or they develop sometime during their childhood. This can often be the result of genetics, infection in the uterus, trauma, or medical conditions such as rubella or myotonic dystrophy.

Cataract Surgery

If your cataracts begin to interfere with your ability to read, drive, or perform routine daily activities, cataract surgery may be the best option for you. During the cataract surgery, the doctor will remove your clouded lens and replace it with a new clear lens that will significantly improve your vision.

Cataract surgery is very safe and is an outpatient procedure that does not require a hospital stay. Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits or surgery with you if it is the recommended course of action.

While cataracts can cause significant problems with everyday life, they are most often treatable with surgery. If you have any vision disturbance or think that you may have a cataract, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor.

 

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Cataract Awareness Month

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Image is from 2017 Senior Expo

There are nearly a quarter-million new cases of cataracts every single year in the United States alone. It’s a serious public health issue that tends to afflict older individuals and increase in prevalence with aging.

The majority of cataracts develop very gradually over many years, even multiple decades. The most common sign that you may be dealing with cataracts is blurry vision that persists over time.

Living with cataracts can be difficult since objects can appear quite blurry or out of focus. Cataract surgery that replaces your eye’s blurry lens with a clean, though artificial, lens is one way to deal with cataracts and get on with your life.

Raising Awareness About Cataracts

Because the incidence of cataracts, or blurring of someone’s lens, tends to increase with age, it’s no surprise that older individuals tend to swell the rolls on those undergoing cataract surgery.

In fact, the National Eye Institute found that a full fifty percent of octogenarians have cataracts so severe that surgery was warranted. After surgery many of these patients were able to experience dramatically improved vision and carry out daily activities without any difficulty.

Due to the way that cataracts develop, the onset of cataracts can affect one eye…and perhaps just the one eye. Many patients worry about cataracts spreading to the other eye but ophthalmologists tell us that that’s not possible. We shouldn’t worry about cataracts spreading like that.

Causes of Cataracts

The lens of your eye is the clear piece of your eye that helps to focus a light – and, thus, convey an image – to the retina of your eye. Having a clear lens is essential for having light hit the retina properly and your experiencing clear vision throughout the day.

Your eye works in a way that some people would find counter-intuitive since it works by sending light from your lens to the retina at the back of your eye. Most people think of everything as occurring in the front part of their eye yet the eyes are a more complicated organ than that.

Even the lens itself is positioned behind your eye’s pupil and iris, so the retina is quite far back. The retina is very sensitive to light – so, your lens need to be absolutely clear for your retina to accurately interpret the images in your environment.

It’s important that your lens remain clear because the lens has been implicated in depth perception. The lens adjusts accordingly for objects that are far away and those that are in the immediate environment. This underlines the importance of having a clear lens, and why cataracts can be such an issue for some.

Ophthalmologists think that the structure of the lens can alter slightly over time, and that this alteration might be what’s behind cataracts. Changes in the protein and water composition of your lens are likely behind the cloudiness that many experience with cataracts.

How Cataracts are Removed

Cataract surgery can revitalize your vision if you’re suffering from cataracts. The surgery is considered safe since over 90% of people report better vision after the surgery and, when following the doctor’s orders, the chance of post-surgical infection is quite low.

Most eye doctors will recommend cataract surgery only when an individual is older and having serious problems carrying out basic activities.

When someone can’t see the television or read the text on a page, or if cataracts are adversely affecting another chronic condition like macular degeneration, then cataract surgery might be recommended by your eye doctor.

Conditions like diabetes and lifestyle choices like smoking can increase your chances for cataracts. Regular eye exams are recommended.

 

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