What Are Cataracts?
A cataract is simply a clouding of the lens usually brought on by age. In order to see something, light rays pass through the pupil and focus through the lens onto the retina (a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye.) The lens is made of mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear. Aging can cause some of the protein to clump together and start to cloud a portion of the lens.
Vision Problems With Cataracts
A cataract is one of the most common causes of vision loss and develops gradually. If you notice your sight becoming blurry or not as bright and colorful as before, schedule an appointment with your Eye MD.
Performing a complete eye exam is the only way your ophthalmologist can determine if your vision loss is a cataract or another problem. There are no medications or drops that will remove the cataract, but they can be easily treated with surgery. It’s not always necessary to remove the cataract immediately as long as it is not affecting your lifestyle. Changing your eyeglass prescription may be enough for the present. It is imperative your ophthalmologist monitor your vision regularly for changes.
When a cataract becomes bothersome and interferes with your daily activities, it may be time to consider surgery. During the procedure, the eye’s cloudy lens will be removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens implant called an intraocular lens or IOL. Your ophthalmologist can discuss the surgery with you and answer any of your questions.
Cataract Symptom Progression
Age-related cataract generally develop gradually, so you may not notice any changes in your sight at first.· Painless cloudy, blurry or dim vision.
- More difficulty seeing at night or in low light
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Seeing halos around lights
- Faded or yellowed colors
- The need for brighter light for reading and other activities
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- Double vision within one eye
To determine if cataracts are the problem, you must have a dilated eye exam (where your pupil is widened with eye drops.) The test allows your ophthalmologist a clear look at your eye’s lens to detect early signs of cataract development.
It’s important to get a baseline exam at age 40 when early signs of disease and vision changes may develop. Your ophthalmologist will let you know how often you should return for an exam. At any point, if you have symptoms, see your Eye M.D. Risk for cataract and other eye diseases increase with age. Since early detection and treatment of cataracts is critical to preserving sight, you should see your ophthalmologist once a year beginning at age 65.
During a dilated eye exam, the doctor will examine and test your eyes to determine if a diagnosis is needed.
In this exam, your ophthalmologist will be able to find any abnormalities by viewing your eye in small detailed sections The test will include examining the eye’s cornea, iris, lens and space between the iris and cornea. (See How the Eye Sees video above).
Your Eye M.D. will examine the back of your eyes while they are dilated. Using a slit lamp and/or an ophthalmoscope, he will look for signs of cataract, glaucoma and other potential problems with the retina and optic nerve.
Refraction And Visual Acuity Test
This test assesses the sharpness and clarity of your vision. Each eye is tested individually for the ability to see letters of varying sizes.
Once I Have A Cataract Diagnosis, What Should I Do?
- If you’re over 65, have an eye exam every year. If younger than 65, every two years.
- Your eyes should be protected from UV light by wearing sunglasses that block at least 99% of UV and wear a hat.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is a key risk factor for cataracts.
- Use brighter lights for reading and other activities; using a magnifying glass my help as well.
- Limit driving at night once night vision, halos or glare become problems
- Take care of health problems, especially diabetes.
- Make sure you have the right eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct your vision. When it becomes too difficult to complete your regular activities, consider cataract surgery
- Discussing cataract surgery with your ophthalmologist will help you make your decision. The information will include the surgical procedure, preparation before and recovery after
surgery, the benefits and possible complications of the surgery, surgery costs, and any other information you require.
- Do not use eye drops or other treatments that claim to dissolve cataracts. The only proven way to deal with cataracts if to surgically remove them.Cataract Surgery FAQs