Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in America today. By the age of 80, over half of the population will have at least some cataracts. Fortunately, cataracts are easy to diagnose, and there are treatments available which can prevent the loss of vision in a majority of cases.
Cataracts are opaque plaques which develop on the lens of your eye. These plaques do not let light through to the retina. There are many causes of cataracts. By far the most common type is known as a senile cataract, which simply refers to a cataract in an older person which has no obvious known cause. Other causes include congenital cataracts (which are caused by infections acquired at birth or hereditary metabolic problems), the use of corticosteroids, and some infections of the eye.
Cataracts typically develop over a long period of time. A person will notice progressively blurry vision, which worsens slowly. Most of the time cataracts are seen in both eyes, however it is possible to have a cataract on only one eye. Cataracts are not associated with pain, redness or any inflammatory response.
Cataracts are typically diagnosed by looking into the eye with a device known as an ophthalmoscope. Even when a cataract is very new and small, it can be quite easy to see by a trained doctor or technician who is using the right equipment. As the cataract becomes larger it will block more and more light from entering the eye. When the eye is examined, it will become harder to see into the eye and visualize the retina. Eventually a cataract in progress to a point where the retina is completely secured, and no light is allowed into the eye properly. At this point a person becomes functionally blind. The video below further explains how cataracts are diagnosed.
Definitive treatment for a cataract involves surgical correction. Surgery is usually delayed until the cataract reaches a point where it is functionally impairing vision so ophthalmologists usually recommend prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses to address blurry vision. Many patients prefer to use breathable contact lenses with high water content. Attempting to repair a cataract in its early stages is often not worth the risk involved in even these relatively routine surgical procedures.
There are several techniques available for surgical repair of a cataract. All of these techniques involve the removal of the lens on which the cataract is growing. After the removal of the lens which contains the cataract, and artificial lens is inserted in order to preserve proper vision. In most cases these surgical procedures are done on an outpatient basis. It is highly unusual for cataract surgery to require an overnight stay in hospital.
Cataract surgery can be expected to successfully improve vision in over 95% of all cases. Needless to say, this can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life. Restoring vision which has been lost can dramatically improve many aspects of a person’s life. Despite the high success rate however, it is important to keep expectations reasonable, as many people will still require the use of glasses or contact lenses for vision correction. Your doctor knows the best affordable premium contact lenses for your needs.
If you suspect that your vision may be suffering from a cataract, get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible and have your eyes examined. Although cataracts are not a medical emergency and they take many years to develop, the sooner you are aware of their presence, the easier management will be over time.