What are Cataracts?
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of your eye. This makes reading and driving (especially at night) very difficult. Most cataracts develop with aging or secondary to injuring the lens of your eye. Diabetes, smoking, and hypertension are some risk factors. If you are seeing halos around lights or needing brighter lights for reading, call an ophthalmologist for evaluation.
What is the lens?
The lens is a clear part of the eye that helps to focus light, or an image, on the retina. It works much like a camera lens. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is made mostly of water and protein. But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.
Who is at risk for cataract?
The risk of cataract increases as you get older. Other risk factors for cataract include:
- Certain diseases (for example, diabetes).
- Personal behavior (smoking, alcohol use).
- The environment (prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight).
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
The most common symptoms of a cataract are:
- Cloudy or blurry vision.
- Colors seem faded.
- Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights.
- Poor night vision.
- Double vision or multiple images in one eye.
- Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your eye care professional.
How is a cataract treated?
The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.
A cataract needs to be removed only when vision loss interferes with your everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. You and your eye care professional can make this decision together. Once you understand the benefits and risks of surgery, you can make an informed decision about whether cataract surgery is right for you. In most cases, delaying cataract surgery will not cause long-term damage to your eye or make the surgery more difficult. You do not have to rush into surgery.