As we age, our eyes become vulnerable to disease, like cataracts. Cataracts typically affect the elderly but can be experienced by anyone, especially those who smoke or have diabetes. Cataracts cause the lenses in our eyes to become cloudy, making vision difficult. They can develop due to birth defects, injury or other eye conditions, and are usually removed through surgery. Find out how to identify cataracts and what to do if you have one with these tips!
As we age, one of the many concerns that we have is in regard to our eyes. Our eyes are meant to last us a lifetime, but they can be damaged or lose their functionality over time. Because of this, many patients are treated for cataracts, which is a clouding of the eye’s lens. This lens lies behind the eye’s iris and pupil, and as cataracts develop, your vision becomes foggy and unclear. At first, cataracts are barely noticeable, but as they progress, they can make it difficult to drive at night, read or even see a person’s face right in front of you. For some people, protein begins to clump together on their eyes, which prevents sufficient light from getting to their retina. This process creates blurry vision, but a cataract that forms in this way can continue to grow larger and increase in size. For others, age causes the lens in the eyes to change to a yellow or brown color. In a sense, your lenses are tinted a different color, which can increase over time and disrupt vision. The tinting doesn’t change the sharpness of the image that is seen through the retina, but it does make it difficult to distinguish between colors, such as blue, purple and black. This is referred to as advanced lens discoloration and distorts what you see. In both cases, your vision is limited and makes it hard to perform everyday tasks like working, driving or grocery shopping. While cataracts develop silently, there are certain signs and symptoms that you should be watching for, especially if you have a family history of developing them. Once you can recognize the signs of cataracts, you will be better prepared to take the steps necessary to keep them from progressing.
The tell-tale sign of cataracts is blurry vision, but that’s not the only thing that patients experience. Some patients will see “halos” around lights or need brighter light when reading while others will only experience difficulty seeing at night. With advanced lens discoloration, many patients notice colors that seem faded or less vibrant, or colors that have a yellow tinge to them. Others will have sensitivity to light and some will even experience double vision in one of their eyes. If you are constantly needing a new prescription for your eyeglasses or contacts, that is another sign that you may be developing a cataract. Even if you can drive at night, you may notice that oncoming headlights create a glare or artificial light, making it difficult to see. This is yet another sign of cataracts. As soon as you begin to experience any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your optometrist for an eye evaluation. Early detection will be best for treating cataracts and to prevent them from worsening.
The elderly aren’t the only ones who develop cataracts. In fact, most people begin to develop cataracts in their forties and fifties, but really start noticing a difference in their sixties. However, there are four different types of cataracts that patients can be born with and/or develop over time. To begin, congenital cataracts occur in the womb while a baby is developing, causing them to be born with them or to develop them during early childhood. This type of cataract is typically harmless with vision being unaffected, but if it does change their sight, surgery will be necessary to remedy it. Secondly, a traumatic cataract develops after a traumatic injury to the eye, which can present itself quickly or progress over time. A secondary cataract forms after surgery for eye problems, such as glaucoma. This can also be caused by health conditions like diabetes and even steroid use, in some cases. Lastly, radiation cataracts can develop in patients who have been exposed to some type of radiation, but these cases are small and rare.
Once you’re diagnosed with a cataract, what do you do? Treatment depends on how large the cataract is, how far along it has progressed and to what extent it is affecting your vision. When symptoms begin to appear, you can improve your vision for a while with new glasses and stronger bifocals. Also, make sure to read where there is a lot of light so that you can see better. Once these options stop working, though, it might be a good idea to consider cataract surgery in which your damaged lenses will be replaced with artificial ones. Always speak with your optometrist before jumping to surgery, however; you’ll need a thorough eye exam to ensure that your cataracts have developed to the point where surgery is necessary. Cataracts only need to be removed once your vision loss directly affects your ability to participate in everyday activities, like driving and reading, and even then, it’s important to consider the risks and costs of cataract surgery.
At Peeper’s Optical, we are experienced with helping patients diagnose and treat their cataracts so that they can enjoy their lives to the fullest. Whether you want sunglasses for preventative care or are seeking an eye exam to diagnose an eye problem, our team can help! Call our office today at (303) 333-2800 to schedule an exam. Your eyes will only last you as long as you take care of them, so call today to protect your vision for the future!
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