If you have or had a cataract, you’re probably familiar with these symptoms. You’re also in good company. More than half of all Americans experience a cataract by the time they reach 80 years old.
But what are cataracts? Despite, or maybe because of, its prevalence, many people don’t know much more about the condition other than that it affects the eyes. In this article, we bring you everything you need to know about cataracts.
What Is a Cataract?
Cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. The lens is situated behind the iris and pupil, and everything we see filters through it in a focused beam at retina. The retina receives the images and sends it along the optic nerve to the brain for interpretation.
The lens is made up of protein and water, and the protein is distributed perfectly to allow clear images and the full amount of light through to the retina.
Often, due to age or other factors, some of the proteins clump together and develop into a cataract. The cataract blocks some of the light coming through, affecting your vision. Cataracts vary in size; some are tiny areas of opacity, while others involve the entire lens and cause near-blindness.
Symptoms of Cataract
Cataracts develop very slowly, and you might not notice the symptoms at first. As the cloudiness increases, your vision will become blurry, and the glare from headlights at night will increase. You may notice colors seem less vibrant, and your night vision will deteriorate.
Treatment of Cataract
The changes in your vision will become more and more marked as the cataract develops. There is no way to slow your vision’s decline, but you can use visual aids to retain your sense of sight. Getting new glasses, increasing your home’s light, and using ant-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses can all help you offset the cataract’s effects at first.
Eventually, your vision may get so bad that the only way to treat it is via surgery. In cataract surgery, the surgeon removes your clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).
The surgery is a simple and almost painless procedure that has very successful results. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain vision of between 20/20 and 20/40.
Risk Factors and Prevention
We don’t know for sure what causes the changes to the lens, but age is definitely a part of it.
Here are some other known risk factors:
- Exposure to UV radiation, from sunlight and other sources
- Prolonged use of steroids
- Statin medication, used to reduce cholesterol
- Previous eye injury
- Previous eye surgery
- Being very nearsighted
- Family history
It’s unclear whether or not you can prevent a cataract from developing. Some studies do suggest certain nutrients can reduce your risk. For example, one study found higher intake of Vitamin E and other nutrients was associated with a drastically lower risk of cataract.
Most experts agree wearing sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection can also reduce your risk.
Since cataract most likely develops from a mix of several different factors, some of which are not changeable, there’s probably not much you can do to prevent cataract completely. Fortunately, the cataract removal procedure is safe and common, and the quality and selection of artificial lenses improve every year.
If you or someone you love has a cataract, explore your options today. There’s no reason to suffer in darkness when there’s a beautiful world waiting to be seen.