Introduction to what are cataracts?
As an ophthalmologist specializing in cataract surgery, I often encounter patients who are unfamiliar with the term ‘cataract.’ Understanding what are cataracts, how they affect your vision, and what can be done about them is crucial for maintaining good eye health, especially as we age.
Cataracts are one of the leading causes of vision impairment and vision problems worldwide, particularly among the elderly. However, with early detection and proper treatment, the impact of cataracts on one’s quality of life can be significantly reduced.
In this article, we will delve into the topic of cataracts, providing you with a general understanding of what they are, their causes, and their symptoms. Our goal is to empower you with knowledge, so you can take proactive steps towards maintaining your eye health. Let’s get started!
What are cataracts?
A cataract is a common eye condition where the natural lens of the eye, a small transparent disc inside your eye, starts becoming a clouded lens, starting in the center of the lens. This cloudy lens can cause blurry, hazy, or less colorful vision. But what does this really mean? Let’s break it down.
The lens of your eye is crucial for vision. It sits behind the colored part of your eye (the iris) and focuses light onto the retina. The retina is like a camera film; it captures the image and sends it to the brain. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, allowing us to see things clearly at various distances.
When you’re young, the lens is usually like a clear window, allowing light to pass through unobstructed. However, over time or due to certain conditions, the proteins in the lens can start to clump together. This clumping forms a small, cloudy area known as a cataract.
Imagine trying to look through a window that hasn’t been cleaned for a long time. The dirt and smudges would make it hard to see clearly, right? That’s what a cataract does to your vision. Over time, the cataract can grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it even harder to see.
While the clouding usually isn’t painful, it can lead to a variety of symptoms that can interfere with your daily activities and hobbies.
Common Cataract Symptoms
For instance, if you love reading, you might find that the words on the page seem blurry or that you need more light to read than you used to. If you’re a driver, you might notice that oncoming headlights have more glare than before, or that the street signs are not as clear as they used to be.
For those who enjoy outdoor activities, you might find that your eyes are more sensitive to bright light, causing you to squint or feel discomfort. You might also notice that colors don’t seem as vibrant as they used to be – a beautiful sunset might look faded, or the bright colors of a blooming flower might seem dull.
Other common symptoms include difficulty seeing at night, seeing ‘halos’ around lights, and double vision in the affected eye. Some people also report frequent changes in their eyeglass or contact lens prescription.
Get An Eye Exam
It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be signs of other eye problems. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, it’s a good idea to get your eyes checked by an eye doctor. If you are diagnosed with a visually significant cataract then the treatment is cataract surgery and replacement with an artificial lens implant.
FAQs About Cataracts
How long does it take to go blind from cataracts?
The progression of cataracts is usually slow, and it can take several years for them to mature to the point where they significantly impair vision. However, the rate of progression can vary greatly among individuals and can be influenced by factors such as age, overall health, and lifestyle.
What are the early signs of cataracts?
Early signs of cataracts include blurred vision, increased difficulty with night vision, sensitivity to light and glare, seeing ‘halos’ around lights, and the need for brighter light for reading and other activities.
Can cataracts be prevented?
While there’s no surefire way to prevent cataracts, certain lifestyle choices like not smoking, reducing exposure to UV rays, eating healthy foods, and regular eye examinations can help slow the progression of cataracts.
Do cataracts cause complete blindness?
No, cataracts do not cause complete blindness. However, without treatment, cataracts can lead to significant vision loss.
How do you fix eye cataracts?
Cataract surgery can restore clear sight. A cataract surgeon will replace your lens (cataract) with an intraocular lens called an IOL.
Can cataracts be treated without surgery?
Early-stage cataracts can often be managed with eyeglasses and good lighting. However, as cataracts progress, surgery is usually the most effective treatment.