Cataracts are a natural condition that clouds the eye and may impact vision

Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens of the eye.  The natural lens is located inside of the eye directly behind the colored part of the eye known as the iris.  The purpose of the natural lens is to provide the focusing power of the eye so that images are seen clearly.  We are typically born with a clear natural lens, but normal aging of the lens causes it to become cloudy and more yellow or brown in color.  This change typically happens slowly over time and leads to progressively worsening vision.

While cataracts are one of the leading causes of blindness on Earth, this blindness is preventable through regular visits with your eye care professional and cataract surgery once your cataract become visually significant.

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Symptoms of Cataracts

With very early or mild cataracts you may not notice any change in vision, but as the cataracts worsen over time they can cause a variety of visual symptoms including:

  • Blurred Distance Vision
  • Blurred Near Vision
  • Difficulty seeing to drive, especially at night
  • Decreased vision due to glare from oncoming headlights or on bright sunny days
  • Halos or starbursts around lights
  • Needing more light to read
  • Fading, dimming, or yellowing of color vision
  • Frequent changes in glasses or contact prescription

Causes & Risk Factors

For nearly all patients cataracts are caused by an aging of the natural lens that leads to a breakdown of its proteins.  This results in a progressive clouding of the lens.  While the average patient typically doesn’t get visually significant cataracts until age 60 or beyond, there are a number of risk factors that are known to cause cataracts earlier in life.  In fact, some babies are born with cataracts as a result of genetic defects or infection while in the womb.

Other risk factors may include:

  • Eye Injury
  • Eye Surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Certain medical treatments including radiation and chronic steroid use
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Exposure to UV light

Are Cataracts Hereditary?

The vast majority of cataracts are believed to be a normal age-related change of the lens.  While genetics may play some role in these changes, most cataracts are not believed to be a hereditary condition.  There are, however, a number of genetic conditions that can predispose or even cause cataracts, but these conditions are usually quite rare and are not the cause of cataracts for the majority of patients.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Cataracts are typically a slowly progressive change that happens over years and can be difficult to appreciate at first.  However, eventually they will start to cause blurred vision, glare, or other visual symptoms.  If you are noticing changes in your vision that keep you from doing the things that you want to do you should schedule an appointment with you eye specialist at Surevision Eye Centers for an evaluation.

Cataract Diagnosis

At Surevision Eye Centers we are able to diagnose and treat your cataracts help provide you with a lifetime of the best possible vision.  The proper evaluation of cataracts and preparation for cataract surgery is a multi-step process that includes:

  • Visual Acuity Testing – A trained technician will assess the clarity of your vision in each eye by measuring the smallest letters that you can accurately read on the eye chart.
  • Refraction – Different lenses will then be used to determine the best glasses prescription for you and to see if your vision can be improved by updating the glasses.
  • Glare testing – As glare from cataracts can cause a significant reduction in vision, your technician will also due a “Brightness Acuity Test” to determine how much the glare from your cataracts is affecting your vision.
  • Eye Examination – For your physician to be able to evaluate your cataracts your eyes will need to be dilated with dilating eye drops.  It usually takes about 20 minutes or more after the drops are given before your eyes are fully dilated and you are ready to see the doctor.  Your physician will then examine the cataract as well as the rest of eye health and will inform you of the severity of the cataract and any other factors that may be limiting your vision.  Together, you and your doctor will decide if treatment is needed for your cataracts.

If cataract surgery is needed to improve your vision additional testing will be necessary to prepare for your upcoming cataract surgery.  This testing provides all of the necessary and precise measurements of your eye that will allow your physician to discuss with you all of the different lens options so that you can appropriately select the option that works best for you and that will give you a lifetime of the best possible vision.

Rest assured that your technician and physician at Surevision Eye Centers will provide precision diagnosis and treatment for your condition and will streamline the entire process for you.  But, because this is a multi-step process please plan on allowing some extra time on the day of your visit for this full evaluation.

Treatment Options

For early cataracts that are not yet affecting the vision, no treatment is necessary.  Your doctor will plan on seeing you for scheduled follow-up visits to monitor the cataract progression.  When the cataracts first start to cause issues, the vision may still be correctable with an update in your glasses prescription.  However, as the cataracts progress they may get to the point that updating the glasses no longer improves the vision.  If the cataracts are causing significant visual symptoms that are keeping you from doing the things that you would like to do and the vision cannot be corrected by glasses your doctor may recommend cataract surgery, which is the only permanent treatment for cataracts.  For more information about cataract surgery, please read the Cataract Surgery section of our website.

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