Coping with Cataracts: Symptoms and Treatment Options
Cataracts become increasingly common as you age. Here’s how you can manage them.
Chances are you’ve heard of cataracts — you might already be suffering from them — but do you really understand the causes, symptoms, and treatments? This quick cataracts primer will help provide a solid baseline of knowledge so you’re better prepared to manage and/or treat the condition if and when it appears.
What is Cataracts?
Put simply, a cataract is a clouding of the eye, often with a yellowish or brownish tint. This cloudiness can result in a host of vision problems, including weakened vision, double vision, blurriness, and excessive glare.
The cataract itself is caused by an abnormal arrangement of natural proteins already present in the eye. Cataracts develop as these proteins begin to gather, gradually forming an increasingly large clump which can interfere with the patient’s vision.
Since cataracts tend to develop slowly over time, many patients are unaware of them until they’ve advanced significantly. In most cases, the earliest symptom is slightly blurred vision in one or both of the eyes. This can make it difficult to identify, as many patients may assume they’re just experiencing typical age-related vision degradation.
While many patients suffer from cataracts in both eyes, they sometimes emerge in one eye only. In other cases, patients may develop cataracts in both eyes, but experience more severe vision loss in one eye compared to the other. Importantly, cataracts cannot spread from one eye to the other — they develop independently from one another.
There are several different varieties of cataracts aside from the standard age-related variety, including congenital cataracts created by an inherited condition, secondary cataracts formed a result of other eye problems, and cataracts caused by trauma or exposure to radiation.
Unlike some visual disorders, cataracts are fairly common. More prevalent than glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy combined, the National Eye Institute predicts that cataracts will affect more than 30 million Americans by 2020 and 50 million by 2050.
Your overall level of risk for developing cataracts will vary based on a variety of factors, including your age, race/ethnicity, gender, and genetic predisposition. For example, cataract risk increases substantially with each decade beginning around the age of 40. Moreover, by the age of 80, 70% of white Americans will develop cataracts, compared to 53% and 61% of black and Hispanic Americans, respectively.
Treatment and Prevention
While the direct cause of cataracts isn’t entirely clear, there are a number of measures that could be taken to help prevent them. Smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and excessive sun exposure all seem to increase the risk of developing cataracts. As a result, leading a healthy lifestyle and getting regular eye exams is definitely a good idea.
There are, however, numerous established treatments for cataracts. In many cases, they can be managed surgically by replacing the eye’s lens with a plastic counterpart. Indeed, cataract surgery is one of the country’s most popular procedures, namely due to its high success rate and levels of patient satisfaction.
If you’re concerned that you may be developing cataracts, it’s best to be proactive. Whether you’re experiencing a sudden, significant loss in vision or are simply noticing a slow but steady decline, schedule a consultation with a specialist to receive a diagnosis and, if necessary, a treatment plan. Cataracts may be common, but it’s relatively easy to treat — contact the experts at ICON Eyecare today to learn more.