The American Academy of Ophthalmology deems the month of January as cataract awareness month. A cataract is an eye disease that occurs when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. The lens of the eye is responsible for focusing the light that enters the eye onto the retina. In order for the brain to interpret what the eye sees, the lens must be clear. When the lens is cloudy it obstructs the passing of light and makes it difficult for the retina to receive a sharp image, which causes vision to be blurry.
Who is at risk for cataracts?
Cataracts are a common result of the aging process, thus some degree of cataracts are expected in all senior patients in their 60s and 70s. Cataracts can also develop from factors unrelated to aging such as:
- Long-term exposure to sunlight and UV rays
- Long-term use of steroids
Individuals who suffer from diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing cataracts. They will usually develop at an earlier age and the eye disease will advance at a faster pace. Experiencing an injury to the eye may result in the formation of a cataract. However, this type of cataract is not always progressive.
Symptoms of Cataracts
In its premier stages, cataracts have no symptoms. Many patients function well and the cataracts have little effect on their daily life. It is not until the patient begins to experience cloudy or blurred vision that they notice evidence of the disease. Symptoms include:
- Impaired night vision
- Seeing glare or halos around lights
- Distortion of colors
Cataracts do not usually cause pain or discomfort. This lack of warning to signal the early onset makes having annual eye exams extremely important, especially for seniors. Your optometrist can easily detect the eye disease in a routine exam.
There is no treatment for cataracts in its early stages. Many symptoms can be corrected with glasses and sunglasses. When the cataract has progressed, and it has an adverse effect on daily life and activities, surgery to remove the cloudy lens is an option. With the information available today, cataract surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis with a small percentage of complications.
The best form of prevention is routine eye exams and monitoring of any changes in vision. To schedule an appointment at a Doctors Vision Center near you visit our online appointment page. Our qualified optometrists are always excited to help new and current patients to see their best.
Dr. Joe Presson