How Do I Know if I Have Cataracts?
Did you know that June is Cataract Awareness Month at Rocky Mountain Eye Center? The focus on cataract awareness this month is an excellent opportunity to inform and educate our patients about the symptoms and effects of this common but serious eye condition.
Keep reading to learn more about cataracts and how to know if you have them!
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts occur when the usually clear lens becomes cloudy, impacting your ability to see clearly. Many people with cataracts say that it’s like looking through a foggy or dirty window due to their vision getting increasingly worse.
Cataracts are the leading cause of partial vision loss in the United States, and untreated cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. The Specialty Eye Institute reports that cataracts affect more than 24 million Americans over 40, making cataracts one of the most common eye conditions.
How Do Cataracts Develop?
The reason that most people develop cataracts is due to aging and getting older. As you age, proteins and fibers within the eye break down and clump together, clouding the lenses.
Cataracts most often develop slowly. It can take years or even decades before many people realize they have cataracts. You may not start experiencing any symptoms of vision loss for quite some time.
Vision loss from cataracts only occurs once cataracts have had enough time to develop on the natural lens. You may develop cataracts as early as your forties or fifties without noticeable symptoms.
By the age of 75, over half of Americans will have developed cataracts which significantly affect their vision. Many people do not even realize they have cataracts until they begin to experience the increasingly negative symptoms of advanced cataracts.
Other causes of cataracts include eye injuries or trauma, certain medications, conditions like diabetes, and being genetically predisposed. While most people with cataracts develop them later in life, some children are also born with cataracts or have them as young adults.
What are the Symptoms of Cataracts?
The most common symptoms of cataracts include the following:
- Clouded, dim, or blurred vision
- Noticing it’s more challenging to drive at night or in low light
- Increased sensitivity to bright lights and glare
- Seeing “halos” around lights
- The need for brighter light for reading or other routine activities
- More frequent changes in your glasses or contact lens prescription
- Distortion of vision in either eye
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- A change in the color of the pupil to yellow or milky white
- Seeing things that should be white as muddier in color
If you experience any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible. The symptoms or signs of cataracts are not exclusive to cataracts, meaning you could have another eye condition.
If you discover you have cataracts, your eye doctor can monitor their progress over time. Knowing this will make it easier to determine when it’s best to have cataract surgery.
What are the Risk Factors for Cataracts?
While aging is the most common and unavoidable factor in developing cataracts, other risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing cataracts. These factors include:
- Having underlying conditions like diabetes
- Prolonged exposure over time to UV rays from the sun without the use of protective eyewear
- High blood pressure
- Previous eye injuries, inflammation, or eye surgeries
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
If any of these factors affect you, scheduling regular eye exams to check for early signs of cataracts is even more essential.
Can You Prevent Cataracts?
Although leading a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising can help reduce your risk of developing cataracts, you can’t prevent cataracts.
However, you can take measures to lessen your risk of developing early cataracts. The most important preventive measure you can take is having regular eye exams with an experienced eye care provider, like the team of doctors at Rocky Mountain Eye Center. At these exams, we routinely check for the signs of developing cataracts.
Another measure you can take is learning if you have a family history of cataracts. Having a family history of cataracts increases your chances of developing them.
You should also quit smoking if you’re a smoker, eat a healthy diet that includes the daily consumption of berries, fruits, and vegetables, exercise, and wear protective UV eyewear when outside or in environments with artificial UV light. Taking these precautions can help reduce your chances of developing cataracts earlier.
What Treatments are Available for Cataracts?
Cataract surgery is the only effective treatment for reversing the vision impairments caused by cataracts. Cataract surgery involves removing the eye’s clouded lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens.
These artificial lenses, known as intraocular lenses, are durable and can last a person’s lifetime. If post-surgery clouding, known as a secondary cataract or posterior capsular opacification, does occur, procedures are available to reverse cloudiness and allow you to see clearly once more.
Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed procedures in the United States. Technological advances have made cataract surgery a safe, low-risk, out-patient procedure with short recovery times.
Post-surgery, patients often report clearer vision within a few hours of having cataract surgery. It may take a week or two for your vision to stabilize after cataract surgery.
Cataracts are a common eye condition that affects many people as they age. While cataracts can lead to debilitating vision problems, from clouded vision to reduced night vision to complete vision impairment, Rocky Mountain Eye Center is here to help you better understand, manage, and treat cataracts.
If you have questions about cataracts or are beginning to experience their frustrating symptoms, contact Rocky Mountain Eye Center in Pueblo, CO, today for a consultation!