What are Cataracts?
Many body parts begin to change as you age, and your eyes are no exception. One of the most common age-related eye changes is the development of cataracts. Although cataracts do not occur exclusively in older adults. they affect approximately half of all Americans by age 80.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded. The lens is a flexible, clear structure of the eye that changes shape to reflect light onto the retina. This allows your eye to focus light rays, transforming visual signals into clear, crisp images. As you get older, the tissue forming the lens grows less flexible, thicker and less transparent. As light passes through the lens, these cloudy areas scatter the light rays and cause blurred vision. Many people report that having cataracts is like looking through a foggy windshield, as everything looks clouded. This can cause difficulties when driving, reading and performing other everyday activities.
Age-Related Cataracts are the most common, but other types may also develop. Cataracts are associated with eye injuries, exposure to radiation, smoking, diabetes, steroid use and surgery for other eye conditions. Cataracts can also be congenital, causing some babies to be born with Cataracts.
Diagnosis of Cataracts
Checking for Cataracts is a routine part of your annual eye examination. Your eye doctor will test your vision using an eye chart to determine if you have any vision impairment. The eye doctor will also use a bright light to view the structures of your eyes to note any changes to their anatomy. Your eye doctor may also dilate your eyes to better examine your lens fore signs of cataracts. As a Cataract develops, you will may notice cloudy vision, halos and glare from lights, difficulty with night driving as well as other changes. When the Cataract begins to affect your routine daily activities, it may be time to have them removed.
In their early stages, cataracts may cause none or only minor visual impairment. Updating your glasses prescription, using brighter lights for reading or getting an anti-glare coating on your glasses for night driving may be adequate treatments in the early stages. As Cataracts grow, however, they can severely impair vision. Your doctor may recommend cataract surgery, in which the clouded lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Cataract surgery is considered a very safe surgery that is routinely performed across the United States. Clouded vision due to Cataracts can be very impairing, so it is important to monitor your eye health. An annual eye exam will detect changes to your lens that may be early indicators of Cataract development.