Imagine seeing things as if you were holding a piece of wax paper in front of your eyes.
What if you were surrounded by blurry lines and lights that look like smudges?
This is how nearly 22 million Americans affected with cataracts see the world.
Cataracts are one of the most common eye conditions that affect the average American after the age of 40. According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of all Americans will develop cataracts by the age of 80. The bad news is that if left untreated, you could end up losing your vision completely. More than 38 million people worldwide suffer from avoidable blindness, caused by cataracts.
But before we delve further, it’s important to understand how cataracts are formed and how you can spot it at the earliest to avoid any unnecessary grief.
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye located directly behind the pupil. It is caused by protein build-up in the lens, making the pupil cloudy, which in turn makes it difficult for light to enter the eye. It’s similar to how a foggy window blocks sunlight. This leads to blurry vision and other visual impairments.
What causes Cataracts?
Although, aging is the most common reason, there are various other causes that could cause the onset of cataracts.
Other causes include:
- Secondary cataract: Cataracts can be formed as a result of medical conditions such as diabetes or the use of steroids. Overexposure to UV Rays or other radiations can also be linked to this condition.
- Congenital cataract: Some babies are born with this condition in one or both eyes.
- Traumatic cataract: A severe injury to the eye can gradually lead to cataract.
Other factors that can raise your chances of getting cataracts include smoke from cigarettes, air pollution, and heavy drinking.
What are the symptoms of Cataracts?
Since they develop slowly, most people don’t even realize they have cataracts until it gets much worse. It may not even hinder with your everyday activities at first. Here are some of the warning signs to look out for:
- Blurry/foggy vision
- Halos and glow rings around bright lights.
- Difficulty distinguishing objects from their background
- Changes in the way you see color
- Double vision
How are Cataracts Diagnosed
Your ophthalmologist will examine and test your eyes to make a cataract diagnosis. This comprehensive eye exam will include dilation of the eyes followed by a retinal exam and slit-lamp exam. Your visual acuity may seem pretty good during the exam, so be sure to discuss any vision problems you are facing with your doctor so that he gets a better understanding of your situation.
What are the treatment options?
For early cataract, updating the prescriptions for your eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses can help restore your vision. A cataract needs to be removed only when it interferes with your everyday activities. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. In about 90 percent of cases, people who have cataract surgery have better vision afterward.