Cataracts

Risk Factors & Prevention

Factors that may lead to development of cataracts include:

  • Excessive ultraviolet-light exposure
  • Advanced Age
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension
  • Certain medications such as oral, topical or inhaled steroids
  • Severe trauma to the eye, eye surgery, or intraocular inflammation

Genetics may be another risk factor for developing cataracts. People with a family history are more likely to develop them. The color of your eye may also contribute to the development of cataracts. People with darker-colored irises appear to have an increased risk of developing cataracts.

There is no real effective way to prevent cataracts from forming, but secondary measures include:

  • Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection. Reducing exposure to harmful UV radiation can help slow the progression of cataracts.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle by following a proper diet, getting regular exercise and rest, and not smoking.
  • When participating in active sports, wear protective eye gear to prevent eye trauma.
  • Have regular eye exams which can provide early detection of cataracts.

What are Cataracts?

A cataract is a painless, cloudy area in the lens of the eye that blocks the passage of light to the retina which causes vision impairment. The lens is located behind the colored part of the eye in the area of the pupil, and it cannot be seen directly unless it becomes very cloudy. The lens focuses light on the retina at the back of the eye, and the retina then transforms the light into a signal that the brain interprets as vision. Some cataracts may remain small and not be noticeable, but more significant cataracts block and distort the light passing through the lens causing vision loss and changes.

Cataracts are usually a very gradual process of normal aging so many people do not realize that they have cataracts because their vision changes progress so slowly. Cataracts lead to difficulty in performing every day activities such as driving at night, reading, and participating in sports. Left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness.

Symptoms of Cataracts

Cataracts are usually gradual and not painful or associated with any eye redness or other symptoms unless they become extremely advanced. Not all cataracts impair vision or affect daily living. But when they do, common symptoms include:

  • Cloudy, fuzzy, foggy or blurry vision.
  • Glare from lamps or the sun, which may be severe.
  • Dulled color vision
  • Difficulty driving at night due to glare from headlights.
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass prescription.
  • Double vision in one eye
  • “Second sight” – one’s reading vision improves as a result of their increased nearsightness from swelling of the cataract
  • Difficulty performing daily activities because of vision problems.

Cataract Treatment

A change in glasses may initially help once vision begins to change from cataracts. As cataracts continue to progress and become more severe, vision becomes cloudy, and stronger glasses or contacts maybe no longer improve sight.

When significant vision problems develop and are interfering with a person’s quality of life, cataracts are usually treated with surgery. Cataract surgery is very common and currently has the highest success rate of any surgical procedure. It involves removing the natural lens of the eye, which contains the cataract. The lens is then usually replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL) implant.