A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. It can be compared to a window that is frosted or “fogged” with steam.
There are many misconceptions about cataracts. A Cataract is:
- Not a film over the eye
- Not caused by overusing the eyes
- Not spread from one eye to the other
- Not a cause of irreversible blindness
Common symptoms of cataracts include:
- A painless blurring of vision
- Glare , or light sensitivity
- Frequent eyeglass prescription changes
- Double vision in one eye
- Needing brighter light to read
- Poor night vision
- Fading or yellowing of colors
The amount and pattern of cloudiness within the lens can vary. If the cloudiness is not near the center of the lens, you may not be aware that a cataract is present.
The most common type of cataract is related to aging of the eye. Other causes of cataract include:
- Family history
- Medical problems, such as diabetes
- Injury to the eye
- Medications, such as steroids
- Long-term, unprotected exposure to sunlight
- Previous eye surgery
- Unknown factors
A thorough eye examination can detect the presence and extent of a cataract, as well as any other conditions that may be causing blurred vision or other symptoms.
There may be other reasons for visual loss in addition to the cataract, particularly problems involving the retina or optic nerve. If these problems are present, perfect vision may not return after cataract removal. If such conditions are severe, removal of the cataract may not result in any improvement in vision.
How quickly the cataract develops varies among individuals, and even varies between the two eyes. Most cataracts associated with aging progress gradually over a period of years.
Other cataracts, especially in younger people and people with diabetes, may progress rapidly over a few months. It is not possible to predict exactly how fast cataracts will develop in any given person.
Surgery is the only way your ophthalmologist can remove the cataract. However, if symptoms from a cataract are mild, a change of glasses may be all that is needed for you to function more comfortably.
There are no medications, dietary supplements, exercises or optical devices that have been shown to prevent or cure cataracts.
Protection from excessive sunlight may help prevent or slow the progression of cataracts. Sunglasses that screen out ultraviolet (UV) rays or regular eyeglasses with a clear, anti-UV coating offer this protection.
Cataract surgery should be considered when cataracts cause enough loss of vision to interfere with daily activities.
It is not true that cataracts need to be “ripe” before they can be removed. Cataract surgery can be performed when your visual needs require it. You must decide if you can see to do your job and drive safely or, if you can read and watch TV in comfort. Can you see well enough to perform daily tasks, such as cooking, shopping, yard work or taking medications without difficulty?
Based on your symptoms, you and your ophthalmologist should decide together when surgery is appropriate. What can I expect from cataract surgery.
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