What is a cataract?
When the normally clear lens within your eye becomes cloudy and opaque, it is called a cataract. Cataracts vary from extremely small areas of cloudiness to large opaque areas that cause a noticeable blurring of vision.
Who gets cataracts?
Cataracts are a function of aging and are most often found in people over the age of 60, although they are also occasionally found in younger people, including newborns. If a child is born with a cataract, it is referred to as a congenital cataract.
What causes cataracts?
Cataracts are the result of aging changes that occur within your eyes that cause the lenses to become cloudy. This may be due to advancing age or it may be the result of heredity, an injury or a disease. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation present in sunlight, cigarette smoke or the use of certain medications is also risk factors for the development of cataracts. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes, but often at different rates.
Can cataracts be prevented?
Currently, there is no proven method to prevent cataracts from forming. Wearing sunglasses is a tremendous benefit as they protect your lens from harmful UV rays, which can speed up cataract formation. A diet rich in antioxidants (such as Vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium, and magnesium) can also be beneficial.
What are the signs/symptoms of cataracts?
Some indications that a cataract may be forming include blurred or hazy vision that cannot be corrected by changing the glasses prescription, or the feeling of having a film over the eyes that does not go away with blinking. A temporary change in distance and/or near vision may also occur. An increased sensitivity to glare, especially at night may be experienced. Cataracts develop without pain or redness.
How are cataracts diagnosed?
A comprehensive eye examination by your optometrist can determine if you have a cataract forming.
How are cataracts treated?
In the early stages of a cataract, where vision is only minimally affected, your optometrist can sometimes prescribe new lenses for your glasses to give you the sharpest vision possible. When the cataracts start to interfere with your daily activities and glasses cannot improve this vision, your optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) who may recommend the surgical removal of the cataracts.
When will I need to have cataracts removed?
Cataracts may develop slowly over many years or they may form rapidly in a matter of months. Some cataracts never progress to the point that they need to be removed. When a change in glasses can no longer provide functional vision, and the cataract is starting to interfere with your daily activities, your optometrist will arrange a consultation with a cataract surgeon.
What happens after cataract surgery?
The old cloudy lens is removed and an intraocular lens implant, inserted in your eye at the time of surgery, serves as a new lens. Sometimes the lens implant can give you good enough distance vision that you may not require glasses. Your near vision will still be blurred, so you may need glasses to read. Your optometrist will prescribe new lenses for your glasses about four weeks after surgery to maximize your distance and near vision and may recommend lens implant options with new specialized intraocular lenses designed to minimize your need for glasses following the surgery.