Author: Santo Rizzo
As we age, the likelihood of developing cataracts in our eyes increases. For those not familiar with the term, a cataract is the clouding of the lens in our eye that affects vision. Cataracts are not contagious and cannot spread from one eye to the other, so it is possible to only have a cataract in one eye. Most cataracts are age-related; however, we can start developing them as early as 40 years of age. Furthermore, during our 40s and 50s, most cataracts are too insignificant to cause any pressing issues to our vision, but it is likely that they will start to adversely affect our vision when we reach our 60s and by the age of 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have undergone cataract surgery.
Aside from age; diabetes, excessive drinking or smoking, and extended exposure to harmful ultraviolet sunlight are all other contributing risk factors. In our eyes, we have what is called a lens and it is a clear part of our eye, made up of mostly water and protein, that allows the eyes to focus light or an image on the retina. Cataracts form when protein from the lens clumps up and clouds a small area of the lens. With it being cloudy, our vision becomes blurry because for our retina to receive a sharp image, the lens needs to be fully clear. Over time, the larger the cataract grows, the more it clouds up the lens, thus making it gradually more difficult for us to see.
We might wonder how we can tell if cataracts are forming in our eyes. Symptoms include blurred vision, poor nighttime vision, and colors might appear to be a little faded. Struggling with glare from oncoming car headlights, lighting from lamps around our house, or just sunlight in general is also a symptom of a cataract. However, these symptoms can also be alerting factors to other eye issues as well, so if any arise contact your eye doctor. Treatment steps of early cataract development might include a new pair of eyeglasses, glare reducing sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. The only effective treatment if all else fails is cataract surgery, which involves the removal of the clouded lens in your eye (s), followed by the insertion of an artificial lens. There are some cases where the cataract must be removed even if it does not cause problems to our vision, but it often only needs to be removed if we experience vision loss in everyday activities such as driving, reading, or watching TV. Lastly, if you are wondering about how effective cataract surgery is before you even begin to ask questions to your eye doctor; that magic number is 90. In cases for the surgery, 90 percent of the time people have had improved vision afterwards.