Cataract Awareness Month: What to Know About Cataracts this June
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye's natural lens that results in reduced vision. When proteins within the lens of the eye start to deteriorate and/or lump together, cataracts are formed. The eye's opacity gradually worsens, which prevents light from hitting the retina correctly.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts naturally occur as part of the aging process. However, there are additional behavioral and medical issues that might speed up the condition. Lifestyle factors, for example, like smoking cigarettes, excessive drinking, and prolonged exposure to the sun, have been shown to correspond with cataracts, as well as certain medical conditions (including diabetes mellitus and hypertension). Additional factors that can worsen the process include:
- Degenerative myopia
- Previous eye surgery
- Eye trauma
- Certain medications, such as steroids
At What Age Do Cataracts Develop?
For most people, cataracts develop after the age of 40 as a part of the natural aging process.
What are the Symptoms of Cataracts?
The typical first symptom of cataracts is increasingly foggy eyesight that isn’t helped by a patient’s current glasses prescription. Many patients start to notice they need brighter light in order to read. Additional sight-related symptoms might include poor night vision, a sudden increase in glare or halos, and vision with a general yellowish tone.
Are Cataracts Common?
Developing cataracts is quite common — in fact, it's so common that cataract surgery is the most frequently performed procedure done in the U.S. Close to two million people receive cataract surgery a year. Cataracts are a major reason why scheduling comprehensive eye exams a minimum of every other year is critical to your overall ocular health.
How Do You Treat Cataracts?
The potential treatments for cataracts are always dependent upon the stage of the disease. In the earliest phases, many patients simply need new prescription glasses or contact lenses. Those whose cataracts have progressed generally require a more involved solution, like laser cataract surgery.