What Are Cataracts? A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear and transparent lens of the eye. The lens is located behind the pupil. When the lens becomes cloudy, or cataractous, less focused light reaches the interior of the eye and a person’s vision gradually becomes hazy and clouded. Symptoms of cataracts may range from the perception of a slight loss of vision to near blindness. The first symptoms that a person notices frequently include difficulty performing daily tasks. Fuzzy or blurred vision, a need for unusually frequent changes in one’s eyeglass prescriptions, double vision in one eye, difficulty reading (even with reading glasses), difficulty driving at night due to headlight glare, decreased color perception and poor night vision are symptoms that patients with cataracts typically experience.
Cataracts are not… Cataracts are not a film over the eye, nor are they are caused by overuse, too much television viewing or too much reading. Most importantly, cataracts are not a cause of irreversible blindness.
Cataracts are often caused by… There are many causes of cataracts. The most common cause of cataract is simply the aging process. Other significant causes of cataracts include a family history of cataract, diabetes, injury to the eye, the long-term use of steroids (may be oral medications or asthma related inhalers), previous eye surgery and long-term, unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Most cataracts associated with the aging process progress slowly. This process may be so gradual that some patients may not notice the extent of their visual loss prior to a comprehensive eye examination. Other cataracts, especially those that occur in younger adults and patients with systemic diseases that may affect the eyes and vision, such as diabetes, may progress rapidly over a few months. In such cases it is not uncommon for vision to deteriorate rapidly. It is not possible to predict how fast cataracts will progress in a particular patient in a precise manner. Just because a person has cataracts does not mean that other eye conditions may not also be present. Some eye conditions unrelated to cataracts may limit a patient's potential for visual recovery following cataract surgery. These conditions include but are not limited to certain diseases of the cornea, retina and optic nerve. If other eye conditions such as these are present, perfect vision may not be achievable with cataract surgery, though you may still experience substantial improvement in your vision. If some of these conditions are severe, removal of the cataract may not result in any improvement of vision. Your physician can tell you how much visual improvement is likely.
Is there any way other surgery for the cataract? Surgery is the only way your ophthalmologist can remove a cataract. However, if symptoms from a cataract are mild, a change in your eyeglasses or contact lenses may be all that is needed for you to function more capably and confidently. Cataract surgery can usually be performed when you and your surgeon have determined that your needs for vision require improvement. You must decide if you can see to do your job and drive safely, or if, for example, you can read and watch television comfortably. Can you perform daily tasks, such as using your computer, cooking, shopping, yard work, threading of a needle, or read medication labels without great difficulty?
Summary: Based on your symptoms and visual needs, you and your ophthalmologist should decide together when surgery is necessary and appropriate for you. Over 1.4 million people have cataract each year in the United States, and more than 95% of these procedures are performed without complications.
If you have questions about cataracts, we encourage you to contact us here at The Eye Institute for Medicine & Surgery. With three locations in Brevard County, Florida, there is sure to be one close to home.