Cataract

CataractA cataract affects vision by clouding the normally clear lens of the eye.  It can be compared to a window that is either frosted, fogged-up or yellowed.  A cataract may occur in one eye or both eyes.  It cannot spread from one eye to the other.  The lens is a clear part of the eye that helps to focus light, or an image, on the retina.  In order for the retina to receive a sharp image, the lens must be clear.  If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image that you will see will be blurry.

Common causes of cataracts include:  family history, medical conditions (diabetes), certain medications (steroids), injury to the eye, long-term unprotected exposure to sunlight, and previous eye surgery.

Common symptoms of cataracts include:  glare or sensitivity, poor night vision, double vision in one eye, halos around lights, needing brighter light to read, frequent changes in your eyeglass or contact lens prescription, fading or yellowing of colors.  Cataracts usually do not cause any pain or double vision.  It s important to realize that some of these symptoms may be a sign of other eye problems.  Therefore if you have any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your eye care professional. 

Approximately half of Americans older than 65 have some degree of clouding of the lens.  Age-related cataracts may develop in two ways.  The lens of the eye consists mostly of water and protein.  When protein clumps up, it will cloud the lens and reduce the amount of light that reaches the retina.  Another way these cataracts develop by is when the clear lens slowly changes to a yellowish-brown color, adding a brownish tint to vision.  At first, this tinting may not affect vision, but overtime the increase tinting makes it more difficult to read and perform routine activities.  The tinting and discoloration usually makes it difficult to identify blues and purples. 

Cataract surgery is considered when the cataract causes enough vision loss that it starts to interfere with one s daily activities.  As a patient, you should ask yourself a couple of questions.  For instance, are you able to do your job and drive safely, as well as read and watch TV comfortably?  Another question is whether or not you can see well enough to perform daily activities, such as shopping, cooking, reading the label and taking your medications, yard work, see the expression on a friends face, etc.

Usually cataracts cannot be prevented.  Although, some preventative measures to follow include not smoking, eating a well balanced diet, protect yourself from the sun, and take care of other health problems.