A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. Looking through a cloudy lens is like trying to see through a frosty or fogged-up window.
Clouding of the lens is a normal part of aging. About half of Americans older than 65 have some degree of clouding of the lens. After age 75, as many as 70 percent of Americans have cataracts that are significant enough to impair their vision. Cataracts can also be caused by diabetes, certain medications- such as steroids or trauma.
Symptoms of a cataract include: clouded, blurred or dim vision, increasing difficulty with vision at night, sensitivity to light and glare, halos around lights, the need for brighter light for reading and other activities, frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription, fading or yellowing of colors or double vision in a single eye. If you have a cataract, light from the sun, lamps or oncoming headlights may seem too bright. Glare and halos around lights can make driving uncomfortable and dangerous. You may experience eyestrain or find yourself blinking more often to clear your vision.
Most cataracts develop slowly. But as clouding progresses, cataracts eventually interfere with your vision. In the early stages, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help you deal with any vision problems you may have. But at some point, if impaired vision interferes with your daily activities, you might need surgery. Fortunately, cataract removal is one of the safest, most effective and most common surgical procedures.
Many people think of cataracts as diseases. Often times, the general population thinks that when they have a growth removed from the outside of the eye, they in fact had cataract surgery. For your information, cataracts do not occur on the exterior of the eye. Cataracts occur internally. One of the normal anatomical structures of the eye is called the crystalline lens. The crystalline lens participates in our ability to see clearly. If the crystalline is clear, we are able to see clearly. If the crystalline lens is opaque for whatever reason, we will not be able to see as clearly as desired.
With age, diabetes, intraocular inflammation, intraocular surgery or anti-inflammatories (aka, steroids), the natural, clear crystalline lens can become opaque and cloudy. The specific description of an opaque and cloudy lens is cataract. It is imperative to know that cataracts do not occur in everyone at the same rate. In addition, cataracts do not affect everyone the same way. And, cataracts do not need to be removed for everyone.
There are times when cataracts need to removed emergently. Additionally, if cataracts are contributing to a person developing glaucoma, or if the cataract is causing specific types of glaucoma, it may behoove the patient to have the cataract removed.
Most importantly, if you’re experiencing difficulty with your vision, pay a visit to your eye doctor, and allow to fully evaluate your eye to determine if cataract removal is the best option at the time.
The only treatment for a cataract is surgery to remove the clouded lens, which usually includes replacing the lens with a clear lens implant.
To learn about cataract surgery at East Florida Eye Institute, click here.
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