Cataracts--Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Cataracts are proteins accumulating abnormally on eye lenses. Commonly developing in men and women over 50, cataracts impair vision by blocking the ability of the lens to transmit light signals to the retina, optic nerve and onto the brain. Since most cataracts take decades to progress enough to cause vision problems, the only way to catch cataracts in their earliest stages is to have your eyes examined annually by your optometrist.

What Causes Cataracts?

In addition to age-related degeneration of the lens, eye doctors think the following factors may contribute to cataracts:

  • Diabetes
  • Long-term use of corticosteroids, chlorpromazine, and other antipsychotic medications
  • Smoking
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol drinking
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight/ultraviolet radiation

Although rare, cataracts can be congenital (present at birth), inherited or arise following eye surgeries or injuries. People with glaucoma may be prone to cataracts as well.

Signs of Advanced-Stage Cataracts

If you do not have yearly eye exams and start having the following vision problems, you may have cataracts that require cataracts treatment or cataracts surgery:

  • Hazy, blurry or cloudy vision (some people with cataracts describe a "milky" cast to their vision)
  • Reduced richness or brightness of colors (especially bright colors)
  • Heightened sensitivity to light sources (lamps, car headlights)
  • Increasing difficulty driving at night/inability to see objects in lowly illuminated areas
  • Changes in refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness)

Only people with advanced cataracts will be able to detect a yellowish opaqueness covering their iris and lens. Otherwise, there are no visible signs of early-stage cataracts.

Cataracts Treatment

Cataracts causing no interference with vision are generally left untreated but should be closely monitored by an optometrist. If you have early-stage cataracts, adjusting your corrective lens prescription may help enhance vision temporarily. You can also get your eyeglass lenses coated with an anti-glare material to help reduce sensitivity to light and improve your ability to drive at night.

When cataracts start impairing your vision enough to prevent you from doing everyday activities safely and efficiently, your optometrist will recommend cataracts surgery, a minimally invasive surgery involving removal of the cataract and lens. An artificial lens replaces your damaged lens so light signals can be sent to the retina normally.

The most common cataract surgery performed is called "small incision" surgery. After making a tiny incision at the side of your cornea, your eye surgeon uses a probe to emit ultrasound waves into the lens to dissolve it enough for removal via suction (phacoemulsification). During cataracts surgery, your eye is thoroughly numbed and you are given medication to relax you. Removal of cataracts does not require general anesthesia.

Make Optique Inc. Your Optometrist for Cataracts Treatment

Schedule an eye exam at Optique today or learn more about cataracts treatment by calling (214) 252-1800.