Vision is one of our most valuable senses. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the senses most likely to become impaired or lost due to trauma or disease. The number of diseases and disorders affecting the eyes is extensive, and many of them have few early symptoms, which makes it hard to detect and treat them until significant damage has already been done. Ultimately, the best way to catch and treat eye disorders is through regular eye examinations.
June was Cataract Awareness Month, but we are spreading awareness all year about cataracts since they happen to be the most common cause of vision loss in the United States. Our hope is that when more people know about cataracts, more people will get the treatment needed to restore their vision. So, to get started, let’s answer a few of the most common questions concerning cataracts!
What are cataracts?
When the proteins in the lens of the eye break down, the lens will start to cloud; this is known as a cataract. There are numerous cataract causes, but the most common ones include aging, trauma, and certain types of medication usage. When the lens loses its natural transparency, a number of vision issues can result, including blindness.
How do cataracts affect vision?
To produce an image, the eye works by focusing rays of light on the retina with the lens. This light helps to create a clear picture. When a cataract forms, it clouds the eye’s lens, which reduces the amount of light able to pass through. Eventually, as the amount of light transmitted to the retina continues to decrease, the picture becomes less and less clear.
What are the symptoms?
Early on, as is the case with many eye disorders, cataracts may not cause any noticeable symptoms. In time, however, as the lens continues to cloud, it’s common for people to experience blurred vision, poor night vision, or double vision. Eventually, cataracts can progress to the point that vision is lost completely. In countries where few doctors are able to perform cataract surgery, for instance, cataracts often progress to the point of causing blindness.
How are cataracts treated?
It’s true that cataracts are common and can be quite serious, but they are also treated quite successfully in most cases by well-trained doctors. Cataracts are treated by surgically removing them and replacing the eyes’ natural lenses with artificial ones. While the thought of having someone cut into your eyes certainly isn’t pleasant, cataract surgery often takes less than 15 minutes to complete and requires only a minor incision.
Can you prevent cataracts?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a 100% effective way to prevent cataracts. However, you can reduce your chances of developing cataracts by eliminating some preventable risk factors. Quitting smoking, for instance, reduces your chances of developing cataracts and can even slow the progression of existing cataracts. Wearing sunglasses outdoors to limit your eyes’ exposure to UV rays is another great way to reduce your chances of developing cataracts.
Schedule an appointment with your eye doctor!
Now that you know a little more about what cataracts are and how they affect one’s vision, you might want to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. In addition to ruling out cataracts and other types of eye disorders, you can have your visual acuity checked to ensure that you’re seeing things as clearly as possible. If necessary, you might walk away with a nice, new pair of glasses! Regardless, eye exams are usually quick and painless, so you really have nothing to fear. Here are a few of the things your eye doctor might do over the course of your exam:
- Cover your medical history
- Give a visual acuity test
- Check for excess eye pressure (glaucoma)
- Use a slit lamp to check for cataracts
- Dilate your pupils to examine your retina
Once your eye doctor has had a chance to examine you, they can discuss potential options if they happen to identify any issues. While the thought of learning that something may be wrong is enough to keep many people away from the doctor, you shouldn’t; the sooner you catch potential problems, the greater your chances are for successful treatment. Besides, you’ll likely learn that nothing is wrong with your eyes, which will give you one less thing to stress about!
Do you have any personal experience or specialized knowledge concerning cataracts? If so, be sure to share some of it with us and our readers by leaving a comment in the section below!