Cataracts are a somewhat common problem affecting millions of adults, especially those over the age of 60. It tends to make your vision blurry and cloudy, which can impact your quality of life, as well as making it unsafe to do things like drive a car.
Thankfully, early detection cataracts are easily treatable. Though the treatment plan can vary depending on the type and severity of your cataracts.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts are caused by a gradual build-up of proteins in the lens of the eye. As time goes on it progresses causing your vision to become increasingly cloudy. Without proper treatment, cataracts can lead to a loss of visual acuity as well as other complications.
It’s important to note that there are different types of cataracts. The underlying cause can affect the treatment plan your eye doctor recommends
What Are The Different Types Of Cataracts?
As the name implies this type of cataracts is linked to the gradual process of aging. As time goes by the body gradually allows proteins to build up in the lens of your eye and lacks and effective way to clean them away.
This type of cataract is related to genetics or developments in the womb. With congenital cataracts, symptoms often appear in babies, though it could gradually develop in a small child. Most of the time congenital cataracts are caught in early well-child exams.
This type of cataract is typically a side effect or complication of another condition. Blood sugar handling problems like diabetes is one of the most common causes or complications of secondary cataracts. Though other external factors can cause secondary cataracts such as exposure to toxins, excess prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, exposure to radiation, and certain medication like corticosteroids or diuretics. Certain lifestyle factors like smoking and alcoholism can also contribute to a person’s chances of developing secondary cataracts.
Eye trauma from sports or accidental exposure to toxic substances can also cause cataracts, as the eye itself essentially heals wrong, or as time goes on, the healing process leads to a buildup or clouding of the lens of the eye.
What Are Common Cataracts Symptoms?
In most cases the onset of cataracts symptoms is gradual. Many people don’t notice the early stages for months or sometimes years. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Your vision becoming blurry cloudy, foggy, or filmy
- Nearsightedness that advances rapidly with age
- Changes in your ability to perceive color
- The glare from oncoming headlights make it difficult to drive at night
- Problems with the glare even during the day
- Double vision
- Prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses that no longer work effectively
How Is Cataracts Diagnosed?
Cataracts can often be detected during a routine eye exam. Especially if you note any of your symptoms to your eye doctor. If they suspect you might be developing cataracts there are some basic tests your eye doctor might perform. The most common way is to dilate the pupil to check the lens as well as other parts of the eye like the retina and optic nerve. In some cases, a slit lamp microscope will be used to detect problems with the lens.
It’s a good idea to bring your prescription contact lenses or eyeglasses to your eye exam to make sure there isn’t a problem with them.
How Is Cataracts Treated?
If it’s caught early, your eye doctor might simply adjust your prescription eyeglasses or contacts. Though more pronounces cases of cataracts may require cataracts surgery to alleviate your symptoms.
What Is Cataracts Surgery
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that is performed on the same day. Though it’s still a good idea to have a friend or family member drive you home afterward. Cataract surgery essentially replaces the natural lens of the eye that’s been clouded by protein build-up with an artificial lens. It has a very high success rate of 95% or more. Most people who have cataracts surgery are astonished at how much better their vision is.
Can Cataracts Be Prevented?
At this time, all the factors that cause cataracts aren’t fully known. Though physicians and eye doctors note that things like a family history of vision problems or skipping your routine eye exams increases your chances of developing cataracts or allowing cataracts to progress undetected. At the same time, underlying medical conditions like diabetes also seem to increase your chances of developing cataracts at an earlier age.
Wearing protective glasses when participating in sports or handling harsh chemicals is an easy way to prevent eye trauma and possible complications of traumatic cataracts.
When Should I Go To My Eye Doctor?
In general, individuals under the age of 50 should have a routine eye exam performed every two years. This is the best way to catch cataracts early. After the age of 50, you should have a routine eye exam performed every year. Especially if you have a family history of cataracts and other age-related vision problems or you have blood sugar handling issues such as diabetes.
If you have recently suffered eye trauma and you have noticed a change in your vision after the eye has fully healed, you might want to consult your eye doctor. Especially if you’ve noticed blurriness or cloudiness in your vision. This might be a sign that something has healed improperly in the eye or affected the lens of the eye.
Cataracts can certainly affect your quality of life and even make it unsafe to drive a car. While there is no 100% effective way to prevent cataracts it is treatable. Though early detection is essential and may help reduce your chances of needing cataracts surgery.
Make sure to have a routine eye exam performed every two years until the age of 50. Then once a year from there. Let your physician or eye doctor know about any changes in your vision. A simple pupil dilation or slit lamp test might be all that’s needed to diagnose your cataracts and develop an effective treatment plan.