Cataracts Awareness: What You Need to Know

Cataracts occur when the lens in one or both of your eyes becomes cloudy. Usually this happens with age, and the condition is very common in older people. More than half of all Americans will experience symptoms of cataracts by the time they reach 80.

Why Does it Happen?
The lenses in our eyes are made mostly of water and protein. The protein in our lenses is arranged in a way that makes the lens clear. Our lenses have to be transparent for the structures in our eyes to focus properly and display crisp images. When cataracts form, it is because clumps of protein build up and reduce the light that reaches inside our eyes. Also, as lenses age, they can become discolored and take on a yellow or brownish tint. Gradually vision is affected by this shading along with the cloudiness that can cause vision to blur.

What are the Risks?
Other than normal wear and tear of aging, there are several factors that increase your risk of cataracts. Those include:

• Diseases including diabetes
• Smoking and alcohol use
• Environmental factors including high exposure to sunlight and UV rays

What are the Symptoms?
Most people will notice the cloudy or slightly blurry vision as cataracts start to form. Additionally, people may realize that colors seem faded. Your prescription may change frequently. One major symptom that can pose a threat to your safety is poor night vision and difficulty seeing at night. The cloudiness can cause headlights and other bright lights at night to glare or appear with distracting halos.

What is the Treatment?
Thankfully, there are options for people living with cataracts to see clearly again. In early stages, new glasses, larger print or magnification, and changing environmental surroundings like lighting can help. If these are not sufficient, or if the cataracts get worse, surgery may be an option. Surgery can remove the affected lens and replace it with an artificial one that is crisp and clear.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, an eye doctor can detect cataracts with an eye exam. Generally, a visual acuity test, dilated eye exam, and tonometry can aid the doctor in making this diagnosis. Contact us if you have questions about this or any other eye condition!