A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye that leads to a decrease in vision. Left untreated, it is the most common cause of blindness and is conventionally treated with surgery. Vision loss occurs because opacification of the lens obstructs light from passing through and being focused on to the retina at the back of the eye.
What Causes Cataracts?
The most common cause of cataracts is biological aging and overexposure to ultraviolet light. The lens lies behind the iris and pupil and works to focus light onto the retina at the back of the eye. The rest of our eye structures work together to adjust and transmit images to the brain, which allows us to see objects and colors.
The lens is made of mostly water and proteins. The protein stays aligned in a way that the lens remains clear. As we age, this protein can clump together and become opaque. Much like trying to look through a foggy window, the clouding is what causes blurriness and difficulty seeing and is called a cataract.
While there is no guaranteed way to avoid cataracts, wearing eyewear and sunwear that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays can slow the onset as well as decrease the exposure to direct sunlight. People with cataracts commonly experience difficulty in appreciating colors and changes in contrast, driving, reading, recognizing faces, and coping with glare from bright lights.
Treatment for cataracts is safe and effective. The most common form of treatment is surgery. In fact, by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract, or have cataract surgery. Cataract surgery replaces the lens inside an affected eye and restores your clear vision. Other treatment may be possible, but cataract surgery is common and very helpful for many people.
Treatment is indicated when visual function no longer meets the patient’s needs and cataract surgery provides a reasonable likelihood of improvement. Cataract removal is indicated when there is evidence of lens-induced disease or when necessary to visualize the fundus in an eye that has the potential for sight. Cataract surgery should not be performed when glasses or visual aids provide vision that meets the patient’s needs; surgery will not improve visual function; the patient cannot safely undergo surgery because of coexisting medical or ocular conditions; or appropriate postoperative care cannot be obtained.
Follow-up evaluation of high-risk patients must be examined within 24 hours of surgery. Routine patients will be examined within 48 hours of surgery. Frequency and timing of subsequent visits depend on refraction, visual function, and medical condition of the eye.
If you have questions about cataracts or other eye health conditions, please call our office or speak with Dr. Craig Rouse at your next appointment. Learn more about other threats to your vision and how annual eye exams check for symptoms by watching our video.