Eye-Exam2--[600x400]It starts with a routine visit to your optometrist. Your vision is slightly more clouded and foggy than it was a year ago so you assume you simply need new glasses. The appointment proceeds as usual until your doctor tells you a new prescription will not fix your eyesight. You’ve developed cataracts in both of your eyes.

This is a common story. Among those over age 40, cataracts are increasingly common, affecting an estimated 22 million Americans. It’s estimated that by the time most Americans reach the age of 80, more than half will have had or will be preparing for cataract surgery.

Surgery sounds daunting no matter how “simple” doctors claim it to be. But education gives confidence, and even a little understanding can ease a worried mind. Let’s discuss a few common questions for those facing cataract surgery.

What are cataracts?

According to Vision Aware, a cataract is a “clouding, hardening or yellowing of the lens” within your eye. If left untreated, it’s the most common cause of blindness in the world. Those with cataracts could find it difficult to read at night or may see “halos” or “starbursts” around lights. Fortunately, it’s treatable and vision can be completely restored when caught early.

Are there different types of cataracts?

There are different types of cataracts, the differences stemming from the original cause. The National Eye Institute lists the different types of cataracts as follows:

  • Secondary cataract. Secondary cataracts happen as a result of another condition or illness. They may form after surgery for other eye conditions, such as glaucoma. They can also develop in those with health problems such as diabetes or a history of steroid use.
  • Traumatic cataract. Traumatic cataracts may develop after an eye injury, sometimes years later.
  • Congenital cataract. Some babies are born with congenital cataracts or develop them in childhood, often in both eyes. These cataracts may be so small that they do not affect vision. If they do, the lenses may need to be removed.
  • Radiation cataract. As the name suggests, radiation cataracts can develop after exposure to certain types of radiation.

Eye-doctor-[600x400]How do cataracts develop?

Cataracts are painless and develop over years and usually begin with a clouding or hazing of your vision. While the biggest factor is aging, other causes include diabetes, eye inflammation, family history of cataracts, smoking, or over exposure to ultra violet light (sunlight). Cataracts are not contagious. They affect the eyes independently, meaning when cataracts form in one eye, they won’t necessarily form in the other.

Cataracts are slow developing. You will not go from having no cataracts to being nearly blind within a year. Make sure you are consistently visiting with your optometrist who will be qualified to catch early signs or warnings that you may be developing cataracts.

Is the corrective surgery invasive or risky?

As with any surgery or medical procedure, there are always risks. The National Eye Institute states that the most common risks include infection and bleeding. They also affirm that, “In about 90% of cases, people who have cataract surgery have better vision afterward.” If you would like more information about how the procedure works, you can watch an animated explanation here.

Cataracts are very common as we age and get older. But the good news is they are treatable, and the procedure almost always presents more benefits than risks. If you think you may have cataracts, please consult your optometrist to discover your best options for treatment and improved vision.