What are Cataracts?
Cataracts affect more than 24.4 million American adults, age 40 and over, and by 80 years old, more than half of all Americans have had their Cataracts removed. Although it is most common in seniors, Cataracts can occur at any age. It has become the leading cause of blindness in the world.
Defining Cataracts: Am I At Risk?
The definition of a Cataract is “the clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens” and it is statistically diagnosed in women more often than men. Cataracts happen to everyone, usually through the natural course of aging but the exact mechanism of cataract formation is unclear. Most researchers believe that the lens clouding is the result of a lifetime of exposure to ultraviolet radiation contained in sunlight.
There are several types of cataracts including:
- Secondary Cataract – Typically developed after cataract surgery.
- Traumatic Cataract – Following an eye injury, a cataract can develop immediately or several years later.
- Congenital Cataract – People are sometimes born with a cataract, but they are usually small and don’t affect vision or require surgery.
- Radiation Cataract – Sometimes after radiation therapy, people can develop a cataract.
Why Do I Have a Cataract?
Remember when your mother told you to eat your carrots so your eyes would stay sharp? Well, she wasn’t right about the beta carotene in carrots helping but she was right about living a balanced life to maintain proper vision.
When your diet isn’t managed properly, you are at risk for developing diabetes or other blood sugar related conditions. Diabetes is another commonly-found associate of Cataracts but while not fully understood, researchers have found a higher rate of Cataract in patients with Diabetes. If you have Diabetes, make sure that you are making frequent, yearly (or more often as directed), visits to your eye doctor to have them examine your vision.
Your Cataract could also be related to other lifestyle factors such as smoking cigarettes, poor diet, and alcohol consumption. Cataracts can also occur if someone’s eyes are exposed to toxic substances or arise after a traumatic eye injury. Congenital cataracts in infants are possible and may be present at birth due to genetic defects, developmental problems, or exposure to rubella during pregnancy.
Cataract symptoms generally begin in one eye more than the other, but they cannot be passed from one person to another. If you live long enough, you can expect to have cataract surgery in both eyes at some point in your life.
Why Is My Cataract Clouding My Vision?
In the human eye, the lens is clear, focusing part of the eyeball that helps focus light and images on the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). Once light reaches the retina through a clear lens, it is changed into nerve signals that are sent to the brain to receive a sharp image. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred or murky.
Most age-related Cataracts develop from clumps of protein in the lens that reduce the sharpness of the image reaching the retina. When the protein clumps up, it clouds the lens and reduces the amount of light that reaches the retina. The clouding may become severe enough to cause blurred vision or blindness through the course of Cataract growth. Once you are diagnosed with a Cataract, your vision can get progressively worse and your vision may get duller over time.
The most common symptoms of a cataract are:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Sensitivity to direct light from car headlights, lamps, or sunlight
- A halo glare may around light sources
- Poor night vision
- Color blindness
- Double vision
Managing Your Cataract
When you visit Family Focus Eyecare with a Cataract, we likely won’t recommend surgery immediately. The doctors will look at what is happening inside the rest of your body to determine what we can do to slow down cataract progression such as changing lifestyle and eating habits or simply updating your prescription.
Are you considering Cataract surgery? Keep these questions in mind before you schedule your surgery:
- Does my Cataract prevent me from driving or performing my job safely?
- Do I have problems reading or watching television?
- Do I see glares or halo rings when looking at bright lights?
- Is it difficult to perform daily activities like cooking, shopping, or walking upstairs with my current vision?
- Is my vision with a Cataract taking away my level of independence?
Based on your answers, your eye care professional at Family Focus Eyecare will help you determine when cataract surgery is necessary and help manage your vision appropriately.