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Cataracts: Signs and Symptoms, Treatments, Causes, Risks, & Prevention

Cataracts occurs when the typically clear lens of a person’s eye becomes cloudy. For someone who suffers with cataracts, seeing through this cloud feels like looking at a fogged-up window. This makes it hard for those who have cataracts to read, drive, or even see an expression on another person’s face.

For the most part, cataracts progress slowly and it doesn’t necessarily affect one’s vision early on. Still, over time, those with the condition will experience a huge disturbance with sight.

There are five different forms of cataracts, and they include:

Nuclear Cataracts (affecting the center of one’s lens)

At first, this will result in enhanced nearsightedness or could improve one’s reading for the short-term. As time goes on the lens transforms densely yellow and can cloud a person’s vision. At it progresses, a person’s lens can turn brown, which makes it hard for an individual to differentiate between colors.

Cortical Cataracts (affects edges of lens)

This starts off as whitish streaks or wedge-shaped opacities around the outside edge of a person’s lens cortex. As it progresses slowly, the streaks lengthen to the center and can cause interference with light passing through the lens’ center.

Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts (affects backs of lens)

This type of cataracts starts off as a small opaque region that appears close to the back of the lens on the path of light. This cataract’s condition interferes with reading, decreased bright light vision, and creates halos or glares around lights during the nighttime. This type of cataract progresses a lot fast than the others do.

Congenital Cataracts

People with this type of cataracts or either born with the condition or develop it when they are children. The cataracts can be genetic or linked to trauma or an intrauterine infection.

Just like any condition, early detection is key when it comes to cataracts to help place a person on the best treatment possible. Should you notice any changes in your vision, it is highly recommended to book an eye exam appointment.

Below are some key signs and symptoms of cataracts to look out for.

Signs and Symptoms

Some symptoms and signs of the cataracts condition include:

  • Blurred, dim, or clouded vision
  • Heightened difficulty with vision, especially at nights
  • Sensitivity around glare and light
  • Needs around bright light for activities such as reading
  • Noticing a glare or ‘halos’ around lights, especially at nights
  • The need for frequent changes around prescriptions in contact lens or eyeglasses
  • Yellowing or fading of colors
  • Experiencing double vision within one eye

Initially your vision’s cloudiness will only affect a minor part of your eye’s lens, and most patients are unaware of vision loss in the early stages of cataracts. As the condition progresses, your lens will cloud up more and patients tend to feel distortions as the light passes through their lens, which will essentially lead to more vision issues as time wears on.

Treatments

The first step to treating cataracts tends to be prescription glasses; however, depending on the severity of the condition, or whether or not this treatment can help, sometimes surgery is warranted.

Some patients are apprehensive around the idea of a cataracts surgery. Still, the good news is, there is no real rush when it comes to jumping into the procedure. Cataracts won’t harm a person’s eye if not removed; however, they do progress quicker for those with diabetes. Delaying the surgery won’t affect vision recovery if you eventually do decide on the procedure, so it’s always best to weigh out the pros and cons with your doctor before going through with it.

The surgery itself deals with removals of the clouded lens and placing a new and clear artificial one in its place. This artificial lens is referred to as an intraocular lens and is placed in the same areas as a patient’s old lens; which now becomes a permanent part of the eye.

In some cases, other eye issues forbid the replacement of an artificial lens. In this instance, doctors would remove the cataract and try contact lenses or eyeglasses as a substitute to help with any vision issues. Patients don’t need to stay in a hospital after this surgery, and doctors only use a local anesthetic while the patient stays awake during the procedure.

While the surgery is safe for the most part, as with any procedure there are some risks involved. When it comes to cataracts surgery, bleeding and infection can occur. There’s also an enhanced risk around retinal detachment.

The surgery takes about eight weeks to heal, with patients experiencing discomfort for about few days after the procedure.

Should you require this surgery in both eyes, your doctor will remove your cataract’s during two separate procedures; scheduling one removal, and the second after you have healed from the first.

Causes

Generally speaking, a majority of cataracts occur because of aging or injury tissue within the eye’s lens. In some cases, the condition develops thanks to inherited disorders that stem from other health issues, which increases the chances of cataracts. The disorder can also be the result of other eye conditions, eye surgeries of the past, or due to other illnesses like diabetes. The use of steroid meds over a long period of time have also been linked to cataracts.

Risk Factors

Below are some things that increase a person’s chance of developing cataracts. They include:

  • Aging
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Excessive sunlight exposure
  • Obesity
  • A past eye injury or inflammation
  • High blood pressure
  • Past eye surgery
  • Long-term use of corticosteroid medications
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol

Prevention

While you can’t slow down the progression when it comes to this condition, or avoid it, there are some prevention tactics that might help when it comes to cataracts. They include:

Regular Eye Examinations: Booking regular eye appointments can assist around early detection of the condition, as well as other eye issues.

Smoking: If you smoke, look into strategies around quitting. This will not only help prevent cataracts, but a list of other potentially hazardous health issues.

Fruits & Veggies: Adding more veggies and fruits to your daily diet can help you get the nutrients you need to make your entire body feel good. Still, this food group is one that is jam packed with antioxidants, vitamins that help when it comes the health of your eyes as well.

Sunglasses: Ultraviolet (UV) rays are something that may contribute to the progression of cataracts. Ensure you purchase sunglasses that block these UV rays when you are having fun in the sun!

Decrease Alcohol Consumption: As increased alcohol use can enhance chances around cataracts, it is advised to try and reduce consumption to lessen the risk of developing this condition.

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