The eye functions much like a camera, light rays enter the eye passing through several layers back to the pupil and then finaly into the lens. The lens bends the light rays to focus objects onto the retina which lines the back of the eye. Cataracts occur when there is a buildup of protein in the lens therefore making it cloudy. This prevents light from passing clearly through the lens, causing some loss of vision. Since new lens cells form on the outside of the lens older cells are compacted into the center of the lens resulting in the cataract. There are several forms of cataracts which include:
Age-related cataracts – As the name suggest, this type of cataract develops as a result of aging.
Congenital cataracts – Babies are sometimes born with cataracts as a result of an infection, injury, poor development before they were born, or they may develop during childhood.
Secondary cataracts – These develop as a result of other medical conditions like diabetes, exposure to toxic substances, certain drugs (ie: corticosteroids or diuretics), ultraviolet light, or radiation.
Traumatic cataracts – These form as a result of an injury to the eye.
Factors which may increase a person’s risk of developing cataracts include cigarette smoke, air pollution, and heavy alcohol consumption.
Cataracts usually form slowly and cause few symptoms until they noticeably block light. When symptoms are present, the may include:
- Vision that is cloudy, blurry, foggy or filmy
- Progressive nearsightedness in older people often called “second sight” because they may no longer need reading glasses
- Changes in the way you see color because the discolored lens acts as a filter
- Problems driving at night such as glare from oncoming headlight
- Problems with glare during the day
- Double vision (like a superimposed image)
- Sudden changes in glasses prescription
Cataracts are diagnosed during an eye exam. The doctor will dilate your pupils in order to examine the condition of the lens and other parts of the eye. If your vision can be corrected to an acceptable level with a change in prescription, eyeglasses, including bifocals or contacts, may be prescribed, eliminating the need for surgery.
If your vision loss cannot be corrected with new glasses and cataracts interfere with your daily life, you may be a candidate for cataract surgery, which involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear, artificial one.
Cataract surgery is usually conducted on an outpatient basis and is very successful in restoring vision. It is the most frequently performed surgery in the U.S. Better than 9 out of 10 people have improved vision as a result of the surgery. Maintaining eye health is a part of the wellness lifestyle. For a complete eye evaluation with a recommended intervention make an appointment with your ophthalmologist.