WHAT IS IT?
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. Seeing through a cloudy lens is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window.
Most cataracts are a result of aging. As you get older, the lenses in your eyes become less flexible, less transparent, and thicker. Tissues within the lens may break down and clump together, clouding small areas. At first, the cloudiness may affect only a small part of the eye’s lens. As the cataract grows, the blurring becomes more widespread.
Some cataracts are related to inherited genetic disorders. Cataracts may also stem from other eye disorders; medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure; trauma; or past eye surgery.
Long-term use of corticosteroid medications can increase your risk of cataracts. So can excessive exposure to sunlight or ionizing radiation.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Clouded, blurred or dim vision
- Increasing difficulty with vision at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Seeing “halos” around lights
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Double vision in a single eye
WHAT TESTS TO EXPECT
- Visual acuity test. For this test, you’re asked to read an eye chart with progressively smaller letters.
- Slit-lamp examination. This test allows your eye doctor to see the structures at the front of your eye under magnification to look for any abnormalities.
- Retinal examination. Before this test, dilating drops are placed in your eyes to open your pupils wide. This makes it easier to examine the back of your eyes (retina). Using a slit lamp or a device called an ophthalmoscope, your eye doctor can examine your lens for signs of a cataract.
The only effective treatment for cataracts is surgery. It’s up to you and your doctor to decide when cataract surgery is right for you. Most eye doctors will recommend surgery when your cataracts begin to affect your quality of life or interfere with your ability to perform normal daily activities, such as reading or driving at night.
Cataract surgery involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens. The artificial lens is positioned in the same place as your natural lens, and it remains a permanent part of your eye. The surgery is generally done under a local anesthetic as an outpatient procedure.
For some people, other eye problems prohibit the use of an artificial lens. In these situations, once the cataract is removed, vision may be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
A large study recently found a diet rich in vitamins and minerals was associated with a reduced risk of developing cataracts.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.