What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouded spot in your eye’s lens. More than half of all Americans aged 80 and up have cataracts or have undergone cataract surgery to remove them. Learn about the different types of cataracts, their symptoms, and causes, as well as how your optometrist or ophthalmologist will diagnose and treat them.
Seeing through hazy lenses is similar to looking through a fog or dirty window for persons with cataracts. Cataracts can make it difficult to read and drive (especially at night), or notice the expression on a friend’s face due to clouded vision.
The majority of cataracts form slowly and do not affect your vision at first. Cataracts, on the other hand, will obstruct your vision over time.
Causes of Cataracts
The most common cause of cataracts is a change in the tissue that makes up the lens of the eye due to aging or injury. The lens’ proteins and fibers begin to break down, giving blurry or unclear vision.
The cloudiness becomes denser as the cataract progresses. As light passes through the lens, a cataract scatters and blocks it, preventing a high-definition image from reaching your retina. As a result, your vision will get hazy.
At first, the cloudiness caused by a cataract may only impact a tiny portion of your vision, and you may be completely unaware of any vision loss. The cataract swells in size, clouding more of your lens and distorting the light traveling through it. It’s possible that this will result in more obvious symptoms.
Stronger lighting and spectacles can help you cope with symptoms of cataracts at first. However, if your vision is obstructing your daily activities, you may need cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is, fortunately, a relatively safe and successful technique.
Glare is the most common symptom of cataracts. It may be difficult for you to drive at night. They can also cause your eyesight to get foggy as if you’re gazing through a fog. It can be difficult to distinguish between similar hues or determine how far away an object is.
A tiny patch of blurred vision is the most typical initial indication of a cataract. As your lens becomes increasingly cloudy, this area of impaired vision is likely to enlarge. You may eventually notice that your vision is dull or fuzzy in general.
Cataracts are frequently painless. However, they can make your eyes more sensitive to light, which can cause pain.
Cataracts are often accompanied by light sensitivity. According to the Mayo Clinic, bright lights can be unpleasant, especially for those who have posterior subcapsular cataracts. Cataracts of this sort begin at the back of the lens, blocking the passage of light and obstructing reading vision.
The diffraction of light as it enters your eye can be caused by the clouding of the lens. A halo may develop around light sources as a result of this. Driving can be tough when there are rings surrounding every light, sometimes in a variety of colors. This is another reason why, if you have a cataract, driving at night, especially when the roads are wet and there are lights and headlights, can be unsafe.
You may have cataracts if you need stronger glasses or contacts on a regular basis. Buying a stronger pair of readers from the drugstore will not solve the problem. If your vision is rapidly deteriorating, see an eye doctor. It’s possible that you have cataracts or another eye ailment that might benefit from treatment right away.
The clumps of protein that obscure your lens may change to a yellow or brownish color as cataracts grow. As a result, all of the light entering your eye has a yellow tinge. It’s almost as if you’re wearing TV-advertised “blue-blocker” sunglasses that block blue and violet light. This alters your perception of color and impairs your capacity to distinguish between them.
Diffraction caused by a cataract’s clouded lens can cause you to see two or more pictures of the same thing. Double vision, commonly known as diplopia, can be caused by a variety of factors.
Other Symptoms of Cataracts
Binocular double vision, in which two pictures are visible only when both eyes are open, can indicate a variety of health issues, including diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, etc.
A problem with your eye’s cornea or lens is more likely to create a monocular double vision, which causes numerous pictures to appear in one eye but not the other. Diplopia is frequently caused by cataracts. This impression may fade as the cataract grows larger.
Cataracts come in a variety of forms, each with its own set of symptoms.
Cataracts that form in the lens’ center (nuclear cataracts). At first, a nuclear cataract may induce increased nearsightedness or even a transient improvement in reading vision. However, as time passes, the lens becomes more thickly yellow, obscuring your eyesight even more.
The lens may even turn brown as the cataract advances. Advanced lens yellowing or browning can make it difficult to discriminate between different tones of color.
This type of cataract is more common in people who work outside, such as fishermen and farmers. Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB protection to avoid it.
This is the most common type of cataract, also known as a nuclear sclerotic cataract. Anyone who lives long enough is bound to encounter one. The symptoms of these cataracts are glare, a yellow hue, and changes in your prescription.
The cortex, which is located on the outside border of your lens, is where these take shape. They begin as white wedges that resemble triangles and point toward your eye’s center. The symptoms of cortical cataracts are mild in the beginning because they are out of the line of sight. They scatter light as they grow through.
These form directly behind the lens capsule, the portion of your eye that surrounds and holds the lens in place. As light passes through the lens, they are immediately in the path of the light. Symptoms of these cataracts are glare and haze.
Posterior Polar Cataracts
These appear in the back and center of your lens and are frequently caused by genes passed down via your family. The biggest symptom of these cataracts is a dramatic and fast decrease in acuity.
They appear as little white spots on the front, center of your lens. Your vision is usually unaffected by cataracts. The only symptom of these cataracts may be seeing spots in bright light.
This form is more common in younger children, and it affects both eyes. Genes cause them are passed down from one generation to the next.
A chromosomal abnormality, such as Down syndrome, can cause congenital cataracts. They could also be inherited, meaning that a baby’s parents could have them.
Christmas tree Cataracts
Polychromatic cataracts develop sparkling, colored crystals in your lens and are also known as Christmas tree cataracts. They’re most common in patients with myotonic dystrophy, a disorder that causes muscle weakness. The symptoms of this form of cataract are sparkly spots when brighter lights hit them.
Who is affected by cataracts?
Cataracts are widespread among the elderly. Cataracts affect more than half of adults over the age of 80.
Around the age of 40, the majority of people begin to get cataracts. However, symptoms are unlikely to appear until after the age of 60. Cataracts are caused by a congenital abnormality in a small percentage of newborns.
Cataracts can affect both eyes. However, one eye may be worse than the other, or the condition may develop later.
Treatment of Cataract Symptoms
If you’re experiencing cataract symptoms, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist for a thorough examination. To view inside your eye, the doctor will need to dilate your pupil. Special eye drops expand your pupil during this test (the black part of the eye). Your doctor examines the health of your eye when the pupil is wide open. Your doctor can examine your eyes to check if you have cataracts or other issues, as well as determine how much of your vision is obstructed.
It’s common to get cataracts and eyesight difficulties as you become older. You don’t have to put up with it, however. Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most successful procedures available in the United States. It’s a quick and painless procedure. It restores vision to 90% of persons and is rarely associated with problems.
Most people wait until a cataract causes significant vision loss, such as making it difficult to read or drive. Other eye diseases, such as age-related changes in the retina or diabetic retinopathy, may require cataract surgery to be able to see the conditions and treat them.
During the cataract operation, you should not feel anything. You may experience moderate pain and discomfort afterward. In the first day or two, your doctor may prescribe a pain killer.
Within eight weeks, your eye should be completely healed. However, you can resume normal activities within a day or two after surgery.
You may need to use eye drops for a few weeks after surgery. The drops aid in wound healing, infection prevention, and management of intraocular pressure.
There are dangers associated with any procedure. It’s unlikely, but you could develop an infection or experience bleeding. There’s also a danger that your retina will separate away from the back of your eye’s tissues. A detached retina is a medical term for this condition.
After cataract surgery, some people experience a condition known as posterior capsule opacification (PCO). Because the capsule in your eye that holds the artificial lens in place thickens, your vision may become foggy again. The condition can be corrected using YAG laser surgery. This can happen as soon as a year following cataract surgery, but it can sometimes take up to ten years.
Signs and symptoms that your child may be suffering from cataracts
It’s critical to have your child’s vision checked on a frequent basis. The sooner cataracts are discovered, the better their eyesight will be in the long run. Your child’s first vision screening occurs when he or she is a baby. Their eyes will be examined for cataracts and other issues by the doctor. They’ll get vision exams throughout infancy and childhood as part of their routine examinations.
Children may find it difficult to convey eye concerns to their parents. They may be completely unaware that something is wrong with their vision. However, people may claim that they can’t see as well as they used to when they do. They might also complain that they have “double vision” or that the lights are excessively bright. Perhaps they see a glare or halo, or perhaps the colors aren’t as vibrant as they should be.
Your baby should be able to glance around a room and track items with his or her eyes by the time he or she is about 4 months old. If they are unable to do so, have your doctor examine their eyes.
Another sign that your child has cataracts is if their eyes are misaligned, which means they aren’t seeing in the same direction.
Your child’s cataract may not need to be removed if it is minor and does not impair their eyesight. However, if their vision is affected, it should be corrected as soon as possible. If they don’t, their vision may be harmed in the long run.
Prevention of Cataracts
Because no one knows what causes cataracts, there is no known technique to prevent them. However, because cataracts and other eye problems such as glaucoma are frequent in older people, it’s critical to have your eyes tested on a regular basis. If you have a family history of eye issues or have been exposed to things that could harm your eyes, this is very crucial.
Cataracts are a common side effect of growing older. Wearing decent UV-coated sunglasses, wearing a hat when out in the sun, and taking a supplement with lutein in it are all things you can do to safeguard your eye health and slow the process down.