A Closer Look at Cataracts
Our eyes are windows to the world. How, then, can we see the world when our vision becomes cloudy from cataracts? Cataracts are a condition caused by white deposits in the eyes. These deposits inhibit light from passing through the retina, impairing vision. Cataracts are the number one cause of preventable blindness worldwide. Cataracts are common, impacting half of the population by the age of 80.
What causes cataracts?
Cataracts are caused by natural wear-and-tear associated with aging. The lens fibers become more rigid and thicker. Tissues collapse, cluster and cloud the lens. Some cataracts are caused by eye injuries which disrupt the integrity of the lens. The swelling caused by trauma may disperse, but the whitening of the lens remains.
Children with cataracts can be traced to genetics or a syndrome, such as Down syndrome and Trisomy 18. Cataracts may develop as a complication of intraocular surgery, inflammation or disease.
There are a number factors that do not directly cause cataracts but can increase the likelihood of the condition. Risk factors include diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cigarette smoking, alcohol, medications such as steroid therapy and haloperidol, and prolonged exposure to sunlight.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
For those with cataracts, objects appear blurred and distorted. With obstruction of the lens, you may often experience difficulty distinguishing colors. Cataracts can make increase sensitivity to bright light. In more severe cases, cataracts obscure vision to the point of making reading, recognition of familiar faces and driving difficult. If you are experiencing similar symptoms, do not panic; cataracts are treatable.
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty determining colors
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty reading
- Difficulty recognizing faces
- Difficulty driving
I think I have cataracts, what do I do?
The first thing to do is to call to schedule a visit with your local eye care professional. We will perform an eye exam which may include a visual acuity test, slit-lamp examination and retinal examination. The visual acuity test determines the impairment of your vision. The slit-lamp microscope identifies any abnormalities in the eye structures. Through light and magnification, even a tiny defect in the lens can be detected. During the retinal examination, Dr. Kinard will inspect your lens for any cataracts. All of these are routine procedures that we can take care of during your annual eye exam. No pain is associated with any of these tests.
Treatment for cataracts range from lifestyle changes to surgery.
- Use appropriate prescription glasses and contact lenses.
- Use brighter lamps and install better lighting in your home.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid glare.
- Restrict driving, especially at night.
When cataracts negatively affect quality of life and ability to do ordinary activities, you may want to consider surgery. While lifestyle changes can relieve symptoms, cataracts may progress and further deteriorate vision unless they are removed. The most common surgical procedure is extra-capsular extraction. Another option is intra-capsular extraction and combined with lens implants, glasses or contact lenses.
After any surgical procedure, avoid straining and lifting heavy objects. When you pick up items from the floor, bend from the knees. Always use night shields and protect your eyes from bright lights. You may need to use eye drops to affected areas, as instructed by Dr. Kinard. When you sleep, rest on the unaffected side to decrease swelling and pain.
Remember, take care of your eyes! Reduce your risk of cataracts by having regular eye exams, wearing sunglasses, and quitting smoking and alcohol. Stay healthy by maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.