Cataracts are clouds that form over the lenses of the eyes. People who suffer from cataracts might be completely blind or have impaired vision. Cataracts can occur at any age, but they typically affect the elderly more often. When cataracts first form, they usually don’t interfere with vision. Cataract surgery is a treatment option that is safe and effective. Some people require cataract surgery more than once in their lives.
Causes are caused by injuries to the lens of the eye or changes in the tissue of the eye due to age. Genetics, past eye surgeries, and diabetes can also cause cataracts. There are also many risk factors that can lead to cataracts. These risks include:
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- High blood pressure
- Previous eye injury
- Previous eye surgery
- Corticosteroid medications
- Excessive alcohol use
The symptoms of cataracts can vary from person to person. Most people do not notice cataracts in the early stages when they do not cause any vision problems. As cataracts get worse, the symptoms worsen, as well. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Clouded vision
- Blurred vision
- Dim vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Light sensitivity
- Need for brighter lights
- Seeing halos around lights
- Change in eyewear prescriptions
- Seeing fading or yellowing colors
- Double vision in one eye
Doctors can diagnose cataracts by examining the eyes. Some cataracts are obvious, and others aren’t able to be seen. If the doctor cannot see the cataract, he or she might order tests to check for them. Some common diagnostic tests include:
- Visual Acuity Test: This test uses an eye chart to determine the severity of the patient’s visual impairment. It can help determine of the cataracts are affecting the patient’s eyesight.
- Slit-Lamp Examination: This test allows the doctors to look inside the eye to see the structures and to locate cataracts. This can also determine the severity of the cataracts and the damage to the eye.
- Retinal Exam: The doctors put drops in the eyes to cause the pupils to widen so they can examine the lens for signs of cataracts. Doctors will also look for other signs of eye issues that could be causing the cataract or making vision problems worse.
Treatment is based on the age of the patient and the severity of cataracts. Corrective lenses can treat cataracts in the early stages. The prescription might need to be changed often and as cataracts worsen. Severe cataracts usually require surgery. Cataracts can return, and more than one surgery might be needed to treat them completely. Many people prefer to put off cataract surgery until they absolutely need it.
Cataract surgery has a high success rate, and the prognosis is good. In a high percentage of patients, their vision is improved significantly. In some cases, a secondary cataract can develop in a different part of the eye and might require surgery, as well. Some people also still require eyewear after cataract surgery.
- American Ophthalmological Society.