Cataracts are one of the more common eye problems and conditions affecting Americans, yet there are many misconceptions around cataracts, their effect on vision, and their treatment. Most people will grow old enough to be diagnosed with cataracts, as they are a normal aging change that occurs within the eye. Cataracts are painless and usually slow to progress, and also have a very effective and safe treatment option. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cataracts, continue reading to learn more about the condition.
Cataracts are the clouding of the natural lens within the eye. This lens rests behind the iris, the colored part of the eye, and is completely clear and flexible in youth. As we age, substances such as proteins, water molecules, and free radicals begin to accumulate within the crystalline lens and slowly make it less clear and more clouded or yellowish. The process of cataract formation is painless and happens over a matter of years. There are several different types of cataracts which are categorized based on where the clouding is occur or where the substances are accumulating within the lens. Each of these different forms of cataracts may affect vision in different ways.
Overtime, the clouding in the center of the lens due to cataracts can cause blurred vision, especially while looking at things far away. Other symptoms associated with cataract progression is difficulty with haloes around lights, or noticing extreme glare with headlights or other lighting situations. Colors may gradually become less vibrant or saturated as age-related cataracts progress. While some people may quickly notice the gradual onset of these symptoms, others may take years, or even decades, to become aware of the symptoms caused by the cataracts. It is nearly impossible to predict how quickly or slowly a cataract will progress, which is why the best way to monitor the condition is by regularly seeing your eye doctor.
Your optometrist can identify a cataract during a routine eye exam by looking at your eye with a lighted microscope. They can also perform a series of tests to help determine how the cataract is affecting your vision, and may ask you some questions regarding other symptoms, such as struggling with glare. Once cataracts have developed to the point where they are significantly affecting vision, or impacting activities of daily life, then it may be time to consider a referral for cataract surgery.
Luckily there is a very safe, routine, and easy treatment option for cataracts. Cataract extraction surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in America, and the risks of complications with this surgery are typically very low. Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure performed at t hospital or surgical center and only takes a few hours. During this procedure, a surgeon will remove the clouded lens affected by the cataract, and replace it with a new clear lens. Most of the time, this lens implant contains specific measurements so that glasses for distance vision are no longer needed after cataract surgery. People typically notice a dramatic visual improvement within one week of the procedure.