Cataracts and Vision


    Have you noticed that your vision doesn’t seem as sharp as it used to be? Changes in night time vision, halos around lights, blurry or cloudy vision, needing more light for reading, noticing colors appearing faded out...these are all some of the common indicators of cataracts. Symptoms may vary widely among individuals, usually being a gradual process of progressive loss of visual sharpness, in one or both eyes. Many people don’t even realize that they have cataracts at first.

    What are cataracts? A gradual clouding of proteins in the eye’s lens, which causes loss of vision by impairing the ability of light to pass through the lens. Most cataracts are the result of aging, though they can be caused by a trauma, or congenital in babies. Aging is the most common cause of blurred vision in adults over age 50. Other known risk factors are diabetes mellitus, family history, smoking, steroid use, heavy alcohol use, and severe nearsightedness. Also, UV exposure is known to increase the risk of early cataracts, so wear sunglasses (or regular glasses) with UVA and UVB protection year round.

    While there are measures that can help manage early cataracts, such as using brighter lighting in the environment, and using a magnifier or stronger glasses prescription, the only cure for cataracts is surgery. Once the ability to perform one’s activities of daily living is compromised by poor vision, then guidance from the eye doctor following an eye exam, and a decision about next steps towards better vision should be made. Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed and safest surgeries in the US. This surgery involves removing the old cloudy cataract lens and replacing it with a new permanent artificial lens, knows as an intraocular lens. This is usually performed on an outpatient basis, surgery itself taking less than 30 minutes. If cataracts are in both eyes, then this will require two separate surgeries, some time apart. For more about cataract surgery, including risks, read the link below. There are many different types of lens available, and the ophthalmologist that performs the surgery, will present the options that are available to meet the patient’s individual needs. Surgery improves vision in greater than 9 out of 10 of patients that have it done.

    Eye health is important in staying healthy. After more frequent childhood vision check ups, baseline eye exams are recommended once in your 20s, and twice in your 30s, then in your 40s following a schedule recommended by your eye doctor, and at least every two years after age 65, as recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. More frequent eye exam checks will be recommended for people wearing contacts, having eye disease, underlying conditions, or other risk factors. Cataracts are only one of the eye issues that can sneak up without symptoms, which is why regular eye exams are necessary to find problems before they progress.

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