The Symptoms & Solutions for Cataracts
There are currently more than 24 million Americans age 40 and older who have cataracts, according to the Vision Problems in the U.S. report from Prevent Blindness America. The leading cause of blindness worldwide, a cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. While it occurs most often in people aged 40 and older, it can occur among young adults, children, and even infants.
But unlike many eye diseases, vision loss due to cataracts can be restored.
In fact, cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed procedures in the United States and has a 95 percent success rate.
Cataracts generally do not cause pain, redness, or tears. However, the following changes in your vision may be signs of a cataract:
• Blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, or the sense of a film over the eyes.
• Lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work, or you are dazzled by strong light.
• Changing eyeglass prescriptions often. The change may not seem to help your vision.
In addition, people sometimes notice a milky or yellowish spot in the pupil (the center of the eye is normally black).
The Cataract-Hip Fracture Connection
In case you need another reason to have surgery, consider this study that found that cataract surgery patients had a significantly reduced rate of hip fractures from falls.
Currently, surgery is the only proven treatment for cataracts. The surgery is performed on an out-patient basis and is extremely safe. In many cases, patients often see well enough to resume normal activities within 24 hours of surgery, and vision continues to improve over the following weeks and months. Some recent advancements include excellent options to minimize your need to wear glasses after cataract surgery and ‘dropless’ cataract surgery. In the case of dropless cataract surgery, some patients do not need to use eye drops during the healing process. However, if you have additional eye problems, such as glaucoma, your recovery time may take longer.
While there are no proven ways to prevent cataracts or slow the progression of cataracts, there are several known risk factors that may lead to getting a cataract at a younger age. These include:
• Eye infections
• Some medicines (such as long-term steroid use and some cancer medication)
• Eye injuries
• Exposure to intense heat or radiation
• Too much exposure to non-visible sunlight (called UV or ultraviolet light)
• Various diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, or metabolic disorders
• Family history of cataracts
• Nearsightedness (also called myopia)
• Infection or inflammation during pregnancy (such as measles or rubella)
One of the most important things you can do to protect your vision from cataracts and other eye problems is to get regular eye exams.
If you have questions or concerns about cataract surgery, schedule an appointment with your eye care provider.
Estela Ogiste MD, PhD is a comprehensive ophthalmologist at Advanced Eyecare PC in Bennington, VT.