Do you have questions about cataracts?
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with a cataract, it’s normal to feel scared and uncertain. Many people know that cataracts cause vision loss, but they don’t know much about the different types, reasons for developing them, and treatments available.
Let’s explore the most important things to know about cataracts so that you can make an informed decision for you or a family member.
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is when the lens in the eye has clouding. It can occur in one eye or both eyes but does not spread. Cataracts are common and occur in more than half of Americans by the age of 80, according to the National Eye Institute.
How Do Cataracts Affect Vision?
The lens of your eye needs to be clear in order to see sharp images. When it’s clouded, your vision will be too. Most cataracts form from clumps of protein (the lens is made up of water and protein). When the protein builds up, it stops light from coming through the lens, leading to blurred vision. Cataracts grow slowly, so people usually notice gradual vision loss.
What are the Types of Cataracts?
Most cataracts are related to aging, but there are other kinds out there too.
● A secondary cataract is one that forms after surgery for another eye problem.
● A traumatic cataract can develop after an eye injury.
● Some babies are born with cataracts and others develop them in childhood. These are called congenital cataracts.
● A radiation cataract forms after exposure to radiation.
Who is at Risk for Cataracts?
The biggest risk factor for cataracts is aging. People can start developing cataracts in their 40’s and 50’s, though they are usually smaller ones. Typically, it’s not until age 60 that cataracts start affecting one’s eyesight. Other risk factors include diseases like diabetes and lifestyle habits such as smoking or drinking alcohol. The environment also plays a role, as exposure to ultraviolet sunlight has been known to increase the risk of cataracts.
What are the Symptoms and Treatment?
Always talk to an eye care specialist for a proper diagnosis. The symptoms below may indicate a cataract or they may mean something else.
● Cloudy or blurred vision
● Faded colors
● Glares from light
● Poor night vision
● Double vision
If your eye specialist determines that you do have a cataract, there are several things he or she might try. If the cataract isn’t big, you may be able to manage symptoms with better lighting or new eyeglasses. If these changes do not help, the only option is surgery. The cataract will be removed and an artificial lens will go in its place. Usually, it’s recommended to have surgery if the cataract interferes with your daily activities.
Cataracts don’t need to be operated on right away. Because you don’t have to rush into a decision, you can take your time making other adjustments in your life. When you’re ready for surgery, you and your eye doctor can make the right decision together.