Cataracts: What You Need to Know
A cataract is a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. This cloudiness may become severe enough to cause blurred vision. Most cataracts develop slowly over time, taking a long time to disturb your eyesight. Looking through a cataract has been described as similar to looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. This clouded vision can make it difficult to read or drive a car (especially at night).
The lens is a clear part of the eye that helps to focus light, or an image, on the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the
retina. Once it reaches the retina, light is changed into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred.
What Is A Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects the quality of vision. Most cataracts are related to aging and are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans have either a cataract or have had cataract surgery. A cataract can occur in either one or both eyes but cannot spread from one eye to the other.
Age-related cataracts develop on the lens of the in two ways: through the growth of clumps, or through a gradual change from clear to yellowish/brownish. The growth of clumps of protein clumps on the lens of the eye is the primary way that cataracts form. These protein clumps reduce the amount of light reaching the retina, which thus reduces the sharpness of the image the eye registers. When a cataract is small, the cloudiness affects only a small part of the lens. You may not notice any changes in your vision. Cataracts tend to “grow” slowly, so vision gets worse gradually. Over time, the cloudy area in the lens may get larger, and the cataract may increase in size. Seeing may become more difficult. Your vision may get duller or blurrier.
Cataracts may also form when the normally clear lens of the eye slowly transforms from a clear color, to a yellowish/brownish color. This colorization can add a brownish tint to vision. As with cloudiness, in the beginning, the amount of tinting may be slight and not disturb your vision. Over time, with more tinting, you may find that tasks like reading and driving have become more challenging.
What Are the Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors of Cataracts?
As you age, your risk of developing cataract increases. Certain diseases like diabetes also increase your risk of cataract. Smoking and alcohol use may also increase your risk of developing this condition. Other factors, such as your environmental exposure to the sun and ultraviolet light can also play a part in the development of cataracts.
Common symptoms of cataract include cloudy or blurred vision, faded colors, lights seeming either too bright or distorted such as a halo appearing around lights and poor night vision. Some symptoms may come and go. You may experience double vision or see multiple images that may dissipate as the cataract grows larger. You may also find that you need to change your eyeglass or contact lens prescription with great frequency.
What to Expect from Diagnosis and Screening for Cataracts
If you or your eye care professional is concerned about cataracts, there are several tests that may be performed. A cataract is typically detected through a comprehensive eye exam to check for problems with the lens and other areas of the eye. These eye exams may include:
- Visual acuity test which evaluates your vision at various distances.
- Dilated eye exam during which drops will be placed into the eyes to widen the pupils so that your eye care professional can examine the retina and optic nerve.
- Tonometry procedure is used to determine the fluid pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure).
What Are the Medications and Treatments for Cataracts?
Early diagnosis of cataracts can mean that non-surgical options may be available to you. The symptoms of early cataracts may be eased with a new eyeglass prescription, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If your symptoms are not alleviated through any of these options, surgery is the only other effective treatment during which, your cloudy lens will be replaced with an artificial one. This surgical option is only necessary if vision loss is interfering with your everyday activities like driving, reading or watching TV.
How Tucker & Associates Can Help
If you are finding your vision is getting blurry or your vision loss is interfering with your day-to-day activities, the eye care professionals at Tucker & Associates can help determine a diagnosis. Together, you and your team of well-trained ophthalmologists can decide what’s right for your eye care needs.