What Are Cataracts

Posted by: Invision Optometry in Category Cataracts

Woman having an eye examination

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. They can give the appearance of a cloudy or opaque area in the normally clear lens of the eye. The lens is located inside the eye behind the iris, which is the colored part of the eye. It is what our eyes use to focus light on the retina, which in turn sends the image through the optic nerve to the brain. However, if a cataract clouds the lens, light is scattered so the lens can no longer focus properly, causing vision problems. As the condition progresses, the clouded lens allows less light to pass through your eye, and your vision becomes blurred. Cataracts are very common and a natural part of aging. So common, that cataracts currently affect more than 20.5 million people over the age of 40. It is a condition, often misunderstood in that it cannot be prevented, but can be treated with surgery.

Cataracts Are A Natural Part Of The Aging Process…

What Causes Cataracts?

Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process. Cataracts are caused by a gradual buildup of protein in your eye’s lens. Around age 40, eye changes begin to occur causing normal proteins in the lens to start to break down, which in turn causes the lens to get cloudy. Generally speaking, most people will not develop symptoms of cataracts until they are in their 50’s or 60’s. Besides aging, other cataract risk factors include having a family member who has cataracts, having had an eye injury or eye surgery and having spent a lot of time in the sun without sunglasses. 

Other factors that can contribute to cataract development include:
  • Diabetes Mellitus: People with diabetes are at a higher risk for cataracts
  • Drugs: Such as corticosteroids, chlorpromazine, and other phenothiazine-related medications are associated with cataract development
  • Ultraviolet Radiation: According the American Optometric Association, studies show an increased chance of cataract formation with prolonged unprotected exposure to UV radiation
  • Smoking: There is a possible link between smoking and increased lens cloudiness
  • Alcohol: Studies show increased cataract formation in people with higher alcohol consumption compared with those who have lower or no alcohol consumption
  • Nutritional Deficiency: According to the American Optometric Association, some studies show vitamins C and E may decrease the development or progression of cataracts

Surgery Is An Effective Way To Remove Cataracts…

Having An Annual Comprehensive Eye Exam Is the Most Important Thing You Can Do…

Cataract Symptoms

Cataracts develop gradually, so you may not notice any changes in your vision until the cataract is advanced enough to distort light as it enters your eye. This can cause symptoms that include cloudy vision, difficulty seeing at night, and halos around lights. The type of cataracts you have may affect which symptoms you develop and how soon they will appear. If you have cataracts, you may experience:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Trouble seeing at night
  • Light and glare sensitivity
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Double vision

See How Cataracts Could Be Affecting Your Vision…

Cataract double vision simulation
Cataract Yellowed vision simulation
Vision with Halos caused by cataracts
Night vision with cataracts
Halos with cataracts

Types Of Cataracts

The lens is made up of layers, like an onion. The outermost is known as the capsule. The layer inside the capsule is called the cortex, and the innermost layer is the nucleus. A cataract can develop in any of these areas. Cataracts are a very common reason people lose vision, but they can be treated. Named for their location in the lens, there are three types of cataracts:

  1. Nuclear Cataract: located in the center of the lens
  2. Cortical Cataract: affects the layer of the lens surrounding the nucleus
  3. Posterior Capsular Cataract: is found in the back outer layer of the lens

A Cataract Needs To Be Removed Only When Vision Loss Interferes With Your Everyday Activities Such As Driving, Reading, Or Watching TV…

Cataract Treatments

When symptoms begin to appear, you may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses. However, if these measures do not work and the cataract has progressed enough to seriously impair your vision, surgery is the only effective treatment. Cataract surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens known as an intra-ocular lens (IOL) implant. These medical devices are implanted inside the eye to replace the eye’s natural lens when it is removed during cataract surgery. An IOL is a tiny, artificial lens for the eye made of silicone or acrylic. They are also coated with special material to help protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

When You Are Ready To Correct Your Cataracts, You Could Also Correct Your Astigmatism By Choosing An Astigmatism Correcting Lens…

IOL on fingertip

Cataract Surgery

Unfortunately, cataracts can interfere with any activity that requires clear vision. This includes reading, knitting, playing cards, applying makeup, watching TV, driving and even being able to see faces clearly. When the condition has progressed enough to impact normal daily activities, surgery is the only effective treatment. The good news is that cataract surgery is among the safest surgeries performed today. And, for most people, cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure. Today, there are a wide variety of IOLs to choose from. In fact, for some people an advanced-technology lens could also correct their astigmatism and reduce their dependence on glasses for distance reading. Prior to surgery, your optometrist will perform a comprehensive eye exam to check the overall health of your eyes.

Cataracts Cannot Be Prevented, But They Can Be Treated With Surgery…

Cataract Care

Cataract surgery should be considered only when they have progressed enough to significantly impair your vision and affect your daily activities. Cataract surgery is a relatively simple, painless procedure and is very successful in restoring vision. Our doctors will work closely with your cataract surgeon by providing all pre- and post-operative care to ensure the best visual outcome. If you would like to learn more about your cataract treatment options, contact our office at (619) 222-2020 to learn how we can help.

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