Are you experiencing cloudy vision? If so, you could be among one of over 20 million Americans who suffer from cataracts. Today, cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in people who are over 40 years old and the principal cause of blindness and other eye problems in the world.
With cataracts being such a significant concern for the aging population, it is good to understand the basic information about it and what you can do to avoid this problem. To do this, you need to understand the real meaning of cataracts, what causes the problem, signs, and symptoms of cataracts and when you should call the doctor.
What are cataracts?
In simple terms, a cataract is a clouding of the eye lens which usually affects an individual’s vision. As mentioned earlier, the problem is more common among the elderly. According to the National Eye Institute, by the age of 80, more than half of all American seniors have cataracts or have had cataract surgery. In a healthy eye, the eye lens is usually clear, which allows light to pass through to the back of your eye providing clear vision.
When you develop a cataract, the lens becomes cloudy and causes your vision to seem hazy. In most cases, this will make you feel like you are looking at the world through a dirty glass window. If the cataract is advanced, you may be able to see a gray or whitish film over your eye when looking into the mirror.
Causes of cataracts
To understand what causes cataracts, we need to comprehend how the inner parts of your eye namely the iris, lens, and pupil work. The lens is located behind the iris and the pupil, which works like a typical camera lens. The primary purpose of the lens is to focus light on the retina that lies at the back of your eye where images are usually projected. The lens will also adjust the eye focus letting you see everything clearly. The primary components of the lens is water and protein materials that keep it clear allowing light to pass through.
However, as we age, some of the protein tissues clamp together and start to cloud a small section of the lens slowly. This is what is referred to as a cataract. Over time, the clouding may grow larger and cloud a significant part of the lens leading to temporary blindness that in many cases, can be corrected through eye surgery. Certain habits such as smoking can also lead to cataracts.
Types of cataracts
There are several types of cataracts which are classified into the following categories:
- Subcapsular cataracts: This type of cataracts usually occurs at the back of your eye lens. Individuals who are taking high doses of steroid medications or suffering from diabetes are at a greater risk of developing this type of cataract.
- Nuclear cataracts: The nuclear cataract usually forms deep in the nucleus (central zone) of the eye lens. Nuclear cataracts are common among senior citizens.
- Cortical cataracts: The cortical cataract is characterized by white and wedge-like opacity that start in the periphery of the eye lens and expand towards the center in a ring-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex. The lens cortex is the part of the lens that surrounds the central eye nucleus.
Symptoms of cataracts
Cataracts usually start small and may have little impact on your vision in the early stages. Although things might seem a little blurry, you’ve got nothing big to worry about. However, the effects of cataracts will increase over time as you may not be able to see well at all unless you seek vision care. The world will seem dim, blurry, and cloudy. The leading symptoms of cataracts include?
- Poor night vision
- Painless cloudy, dim, or blurry vision
- Faded or yellow colors
- Increased sensitivity to light and glare
- Double vision within one of your eyes
- Seeing halos
- Frequent prescription changes in your contact lenses or eyeglasses
Diagnosis and treatment
If you have been experiencing blurred or dim vision, especially at night when you are driving, you may need to see your doctor for cataract diagnosis and treatment. To determine whether you have developed cataracts, your doctor will ask you a few questions regarding your overall vision. He/she will want to know if you are experiencing blurry, cloudy, or dim vision. The doctor may also perform some eye test to establish the overall state of your eye health.
The symptoms of early cataracts can be mitigated through new and improved eyeglasses, anti-glare sunglasses, or brighter lighting. However, if all these measures fail to help you, your doctor may recommend cataract surgery to deal with the problem. Cataract surgery is the most common treatment method since it is considered safe and highly effective.
How can you prevent cataracts?
You can try to help prevent cataracts by maintaining a healthy diet. Make sure that you consume foods that are high in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. If you already have cataracts, however, it may help to slow down its growth. Some of the foods that are high in antioxidants include broccoli, potatoes, kiwifruit, strawberries, and cantaloupe. It would also be wise to quit smoking as smoking creates free radicals which can cause harm to your eye cells and lead to cataracts.