Cataracts

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. It can be compared to a window that is frosted or yellowed. The amount and pattern of cloudiness within the lens can vary. If the cloudiness is not near the center of the lens, you may not be aware that a cataract is present.

There are many misconceptions about cataract.

Cataract is not:

  • A film over the eye;
  • Caused by overusing the eyes;
  • Spread from one eye to the other;
  • A cause of irreversible blindness.

Common symptoms of cataract include:

  • A painless blurring of vision;
  • Glare, or light sensitivity;
  • Poor night vision;
  • Double vision in one eye;
  • Needing brighter light to read;
  • Fading or yellowing of colors.

What causes cataract?

  • Family history;
  • Medical problems, such as diabetes;
  • Injury to eye;
  • Medications, especially steroids;
  • Radiation;
  • Long-term, unprotected exposure to sunlight;
  • Previous eye surgery;
  • Unknown factors.

How fast does a cataract develop?

How quickly the cataract develops varies among individuals and may even be different between the two eyes. Most age-related cataracts progress gradually over a period of years.

Other cataracts, especially in younger people and people with diabetes, may progress rapidly over a short time.  It is not possible to predict exactly how fast cataracts will develop in any given person.

How is cataract treated?

Surgery is the only way a cataract can be removed. However, if symptoms of cataract are not bothering you very much, surgery many not be needed.  Sometimes a simple change in your eyeglass prescription may be helpful.

No medications, dietary supplements or exercises have been shown to prevent or cure cataracts. Protection form excessive sunlight may help slow the progression of cataracts. Sunglasses that screen out ultraviolet (UV) light rays or regular eyeglasses with a clear, anti-UV coating offer this protection.

How is a cataract detected?

By performing a thorough eye examination, Dr. Fullmer can detect the presence of a cataract.

A careful evaluation will also rule out any other conditions that maybe causing blurred vision or other eye problems. Problems with other parts of the eye (such as the cornea, retina or optic nerve) can be responsible for vision loss and may prevent you from having much or any improvement in vision after cataract surgery. If improvement in your vision is unlikely, cataract removal may not be recommended.

Conclusion

Cataracts are a common cause of decreased vision, particularly for the elderly, but they are treatable.  Your ophthalmologist can tell you whether cataract or some other problem is the cause of your vision loss and can help you decide if cataract surgery is appropriate for you.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology: Patient Education