Do I Have Cataracts?
Has this ever happened to you: You’re driving home after dinner and struggle to keep your eyes on the road because the headlights and traffic lights seem especially bright and have odd “halos” around them? Do you find yourself rubbing your eyes in hopes of eliminating the cloudy vision you’ve been experiencing? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you may have a cataract. Keep reading to learn more.
What is a Cataract?
Cataracts are cloudy lenses that generally occur as a natural part of the aging process. However, they can also occur at birth (congenital) or be caused by a drug, chemical, or physical injury to the eye. Cataracts may go unnoticed at the onset because the cloudiness of the lens presents gradually, and vision is only mildly affected. Eventually, cataracts worsen and begin to impair vision, ultimately resulting in a need for cataract surgery.
Beginning Stages of a Cataract: How Cataracts Form
As we age, the lenses of our eyes can become thicker and less flexible, causing eye tissue to break down and cloud the lenses. These cloudy lenses are called cataracts. When light enters the eye, the lens “projects” images onto the retina at the back of the eye. As more of the eye tissue breaks down, the cataract scatters the light entering the lens and the images become less sharp, thus blurring vision.
Cataracts generally occur in both eyes at a similar, but not identical rate. In some cases, a patient may have a cataract in only one eye. Because cataracts often develop at slightly different paces, one eye may require cataract surgery before the other eye. Rarely will cataract surgeries for both eyes be performed at the same time. Rather, doctors will schedule the two eyes a few weeks apart, correcting the more affected eye first and allowing for recovery in between procedures.
Early Signs of Cataracts
Cataract symptoms often present so gradually that they go unnoticed for a time. Vision is not particularly affected during early onset of a cataract. Cloudy or foggy vision is the symptom most associated with cataracts, however other signs that may signal cataract formation include:
- Dim or blurred vision
- Glare or light sensitivity
- Difficulty reading small print
- Seeing light “halos”
- Colors appearing to fade or yellow
- Difficulty distinguishing color shades
- Double vision in one eye
- Frequent vision prescription change
What Do Cataracts Look Like?
Cataracts aren’t much to look at. More often than not, they appear as a “film” behind the iris of a patient’s eye. The iris is the part of the eye known for its color.
Types of Cataracts
You may be surprised to learn that there are different types of cataracts. Most are distinguished by the location of the development.
Nuclear cataracts affect the middle of the eye lens and are sometimes characterized by increased nearsightedness at onset.
Posterior subcapsular cataracts typically form at the back of the lens, creating interference with the light’s path and causing reading difficulty, poor vision in bright light, and a halo or glare effect around lights at night.
Cortical cataracts develop when streaks or wedges begin on the outer lens of the eye and progress to the center.
Congenital cataracts are present at birth. Often, they are due to some kind of prenatal infection in the mother or a congenital medical condition.
Are Cataracts Hereditary?
Genetics definitely play a role in the likelihood you will develop cataracts, but they are not the only risk factor. In addition to a family history of cataracts, things that make you more susceptible to developing cataracts include:
- Frequent sunlight exposure
- Ionizing radiation exposure, such as x-rays or radiation therapy for cancer
- Prolonged use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids
- History of eye inflammation, injury, or surgery
How Do Doctors Diagnose Cataracts?
Diagnosing cataracts will begin with a routine eye exam. Your ophthalmologist can determine if you have cataracts during a series of tests, which may include a visual acuity test in which you read the eye chart, a retinal exam during which your retinas will be examined, and a slit-lamp exam that magnifies the front of your eye so the doctor can detect any existing abnormalities.
If your doctor determines that cataracts are present, treatment will depend upon the severity of your vision symptoms. For mild cataracts, your doctor may take a watchful approach and recommend another examination at a later time to evaluate the cataract progression. Very mild cataracts typically do not require surgery; only when the cloudy lenses adversely affect quality of life is surgery performed.
Having an up-to-date vision prescription and using bright lighting whenever possible will ease cataract symptoms early in the process, however, when vision problems become more noticeable and begin to interfere with daily activities, cataract surgery will be necessary to restore sharp vision.
Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed operations worldwide and is considered to be an extremely safe and effective outpatient procedure. During cataract surgery, your doctor will numb the eye with local anesthesia, remove the cloudy lens of the eye, and replace the lens with a clear artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).
Cataract surgery is typically completed in less than an hour, after which you are able to return home. After your cataract procedure, someone will need to drive you home and your doctor will supply sunglasses to protect your eyes during the ride.
Smith-Perry Eye Center surgeons constantly strive to achieve outstanding vision results for each patient by understanding individual needs and comfort.
An IOL is the intraocular lens placed in your eye when a cataract is removed. We offer a variety of options for lens implants to ensure patients receive the best possible outcomes for their specific needs and wants.
The first option is a basic implant, also known as a monofocal lens. A monofocal lens is a common IOL that corrects vision in one area, usually distance. Vision will be unclouded, however, reading glasses may still need to be worn as they were before cataract development
Additionally, we offer advanced technology implants, also known as accommodative or multifocal lenses. These revolutionary, new IOLs use the latest technology in correcting vision after cataract surgery. Advanced technology implants allow both distance and near vision to be corrected and greatly reduce the need for eyeglasses.
If you suspect you may have cataracts, or if you’re experiencing vision problems of any kind, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the professional team at Smith-Perry Eye Center. We would love to help restore your sight.