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Questions About Cataracts
WHAT IS A CATARACT?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s normally clear lens. The lens is behind the iris (the colored part of the eye), and helps to focus the image for clear vision. With age, and sometimes as a side effect of some medications, the lens becomes clouded with deposits. This clouding in the lens results in blurred vision.
Cataracts are not:
- A film over the outside of the eye
- A result of eye overuse
While cataracts often affect both eyes, sometimes only one eye is affected. It is common for one cataract to be more dense, resulting in poorer vision in one eye compared to the other.
WHY DO CATARACTS FORM?
Most often, cataracts occur as a natural consequence of aging. Opacities form to a greater or lesser degree in everyone with age. A family history increases the risk of cataracts.
Cataracts are also caused by:
- Some medical problems, like diabetes
- Direct injury to the eye
- Medications, such as eye drop, inhaled or oral steroids like prednisone
- Lifetime ultraviolet light exposure (sunlight)
- Previous internal eye surgery
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A CATARACT?
If you think you have a cataract you may experience one or more of the following common symptoms:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Lights may seem too bright with uncomfortable
- Glare may be troubling
- Car headlights may be too bright
- Haloes around lights at night
- Colors may be less intense or yellowed
- Night vision may be difficult
- You may experience shadowy images, double images or even multiple images
- You may seem to require frequent changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Your near vision may seem to temporarily improve
HOW IS A CATARACT DETECTED?
A comprehensive eye examination by an eye care professional (ophthalmologist or optometrist) can detect the presence and extent of a cataract. There can also be other reasons for worsened vision. Optic nerve disease, such as glaucoma, and retinal diseases, such as macular degeneration, can be evaluated during your exam.
HOW ARE CATARACTS TREATED?
At first, it may be possible to simply change your glasses prescription to enjoy some improvement in vision as a cataract worsens. Eventually, a cataract can progress enough that surgery is necessary for better sight. Cataract surgery is done when you can no longer see well to do activities that you need or want to do. When driving or reading becomes difficult, or when recreation activities or employment is impaired due to cataracts, it is reasonable to have surgery. It is not possible to treat cataracts with medication. If you have cataracts in both eyes, our skilled surgeons will remove them one at a time in order to achieve the best possible results. Sometimes, it is necessary to remove a cataract even if it doesn’t seem to cause problems with your vision. This is the case if it prevents a thorough examination of the retina or optic nerve, or treatment of another eye problem, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.
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