What Are Cataracts?
Cataracts are portions of your eye’s lens that produce blurry vision when natural proteins begin to break down. This is extremely common in old age and not something to be alarmed by. In fact, the majority of people over 80 have experienced some form of cataracts. Regularly scheduled eye exams can identify a cataract, evaluate its severity, and provide treatment recommendations.
Causes & Risk Factors
The vast majority of cataracts are age-related. The proteins naturally break down, usually in your 40s, and begin to clump together clouding vision. A cataract of this nature is totally normal and can form in a variety of patterns on the lens.
There are other causes and factors of risk that can increase a propensity for cataracts:
- Family history of cataracts
- Other medical conditions, specifically diabetes
- An eye injury, surgery, or trauma
- Overexposure to UV rays
- Excessive smoking
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Consumption of certain medicines, like steroids
Signs & Symptoms
Think of cataracts like looking through a smudged pair of glasses. You may notice that certain parts of your field of vision seem blurry or distorted. There are several other symptoms that could be associated with cataracts, including:
- General cloudy or blurry vision
- Trouble seeing at night
- Normal sources of light are abrasive (like a lamp or car headlights)
- You see halos surrounding lights
- Seeing double
- Fading or changing of colors
Can I Slow Cataracts Down?
Many corrections in daily behavior can slow down the presence of cataracts. This includes a balanced diet, an active lifestyle, and consistent management of other medical conditions. Avoiding cigarettes and overconsumption of alcohol will also lessen cataract frequency.
These habits, combined with consultation from your optometrist, can help prevent cataracts and extend the healthy life of your eye lens. Some basic procedures, like a visual acuity test or retinal exam, can provide eye doctors the information to diagnose cataracts.
Glasses Can Counter Cataracts
The most simple and least-invasive fix for cataracts is an accurate eyeglass prescription. In mild cases, an updated prescription can counteract the visual distortion attributed to the eye condition. Optometrists recommend that comprehensive eye exams are conducted once a year. This not only keeps vision prescriptions current, but can also identify the first signs of cataracts and remedy their hindrances.
Sunglasses Prevent Cataracts
Protecting your eyes from sunlight is one of the easiest and most effective ways to slow down cataracts as you age. With the advance of photochromic lenses (glasses that darken with increased light) and a huge variety of prescription sunglasses, there is no excuse to let UV rays damage your vision. Not to mention there are numerous other eye diseases associated with unsafe exposure to sunlight.
Other Non-Invasive Remedies
Minimize strain and stress on your eyes by utilizing a few cataract-mitigating techniques at home. Ensuring you have the most appropriate lighting for visual tasks is a great idea. This may mean increasing or decreasing brightness levels for reading and writing. Limit night driving, avoid smokey areas, and rest your eyes daily. Despite these efforts, the progression of a cataract will eventually lead to corrections only conducted by eye care professionals.
Safe Cataract Surgery
When optometrists diagnose very established cataracts, it will require surgery to replace the clouded natural lens and completely correct vision. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States. Don’t be intimidated by this necessary eye treatment, as lens replacement surgery has a success rate of over 97%.
The Cataract Surgery Process
Modern technology and the prevalence of cataract surgery have refined the procedure to just 15 minutes per eye. Specialty numbing eye drops are used prior to surgery to ensure that you feel very little pain (if any). The actual procedure is conducted in the following steps:
- Tiny incisions are made at the front of your eye, allowing the cloudy lens to be removed safely. There are two different specific types of cuts made into the cornea, but they have the same purpose.
- An artificial lens (known as the intraocular lens) will be implanted in the eye. Discuss with your eye doctor what exact lens type is best for you.
- There is no need for stitches, as the miniature incisions will naturally heal.
- Following the surgery, you will be asked to rest for 20-30 minutes.
All successful cataract surgeries are followed by a short period of recovery. You may be asked to use eye drops or special protective eyewear for a period of time. Keep water, dirt, and other objects, out of the repaired eye, as these things can lead to eye infections. Resist strenuous activity for several days following your cataract surgery. Cataract surgeries will be staggered if you require lens replacement in both eyes.
Cure Your Cataracts
Although cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness, optometrists can correct this condition with remarkable success. Cataracts are never a life-threatening situation, but do pose barriers to visual abilities and quality of life. Cataracts can be evidence that other health problems exist, such as diabetes or weight issues.
Healthy lifestyle decisions will reduce cataract frequency and improve the overall health of your eyes. Visit your optometrist regularly to treat cataracts swiftly and successfully as your eyes age.