Information on eye cataracts symptoms.
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- What are Cataracts?
- Diagnosing Cataracts
- What Causes Cataracts?
- Help for Cataracts
- More Information on Cataracts
What are Cataracts?
The experience of having cataracts can be likened to looking at the world through fogged up glasses – the lenses become all blurred and vision is impaired. That is essentially what cataracts are - the clouding of the eye's natural lenses. The lens is the part of the eye which lies behind the iris and the pupil and, much like a camera lens, it focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye and adjusts the eye's focus - allowing us to see both long and short distance.
Made of water and protein, the lens is a clear structure that allows light to pass through it. But as we age, or as a result of injury or illness, some of the protein in the lens begins to clump together and the result is a clouding effect in a small area of the lens. This is called a cataract, and over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it more and more difficult to see.
While eye cataracts decrease vision and can be very frustrating, they generally don’t cause pain and are not considered dangerous. However, if a cataract becomes completely white it is called an overripe (hypermature) cataract which can cause inflammation, pain and headache. A hypermature cataract is not all that common, but should it occur it usually requires removal.
The Three Types of Cataracts
- Nuclear Cataract - This eye cataract forms in the center of the lens, and is often due to natural aging changes. With time, the clouding gets denser and may even become brown making it more difficult to see.
- Cortical Cataract – This occurs in the lens cortex and gradually extends from the outside of the lens toward the center. This is the most common type of cataract to develop in individuals with diabetes.
- Subcapsular Cataract – This begins as a small opaque area at the back of the lens, and tends to progress faster than the other types. The likelihood of developing subcapsular eye cataracts increases greatly for those with diabetes, extreme nearsightedness, and those taking high doses of steroids.
If you are experiencing cataract symptoms you will need to make an appointment with your doctor or optometrist. A few eye tests will confirm diagnosis.
Tests for Cataracts
- Visual Acuity Test - This is your average eye test that checks the accuracy of your vision and will probably require you to read a few letters or numbers varying in size.
- Slit-Lamp Examination – This is a microscopic examination of your eye using a microscope and a specially fitted light to determine any physical obstruction.
- Retinal Examination – This procedure requires your doctor to administer special eye drops into your eyes which will dilate the pupils. This gives your doctor a better view of what is happening on the lens.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Cataracts tend to develop slowly over time and at first you may not even notice any vision loss. As the cataract grows larger you will begin to notice some blurred vision and glare, and as the cataract allows less light to reach your retina, so your vision will become more and more impaired.
Cataract symptoms include:
- Blurred, clouded, or dimmed vision
- Strained vision at night which often makes driving at night increasingly difficult
- Increased sensitivity to light and glare
- Halos around lights
- The necessity for brighter lights for reading and other activities
- Fading or yellowing of colors and, in some cases, difficulty distinguishing between certain colors
- Double vision
- Eyestrain or increased blinking as you feel you have to clear your vision.
Cataracts symptoms generally do not include pain, itchiness, redness or swelling, and such symptoms may be an indication of another eye disorder or eye inflammation
What Causes Cataracts?
There are many factors that can contribute to the development of cataracts, including environmental, lifestyle, age, injury and illness. But there are a few factors that increase the likelihood of developing cataracts.
Factors in the Development of Cataracts
- Long-term exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation (UVA or UVB)
- High levels of free radicals within the body
- There are a number of drugs that have been implicated in the development of cataract formation including steroids, long-term aspirin use and major tranquilizers
- Smoking is suspected of leading to the formation of nuclear cataracts
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Medical disorders such as diabetes, glaucoma, and metabolic conditions. German measles (Rubella) can cause cataracts on the unborn child.
- Physical injuries such as a blow to the eye, a cut, intense heat or intense cold, chemical burns, or radiation
- Diets high in salt
- Age-related eye degeneration
Help for Cataracts
While surgery is the most common form of treatment for cataracts, it is not the only one, and because the eye is not damaged from cataracts, surgery can be performed at any stage. For this reason, many people decide to wait as long as possible before taking drastic surgical measures.
Surgery is the only successful medical treatment for cataracts. During surgery, the clouded lens is removed and replaced with a clear lens implant. Sometimes cataracts are removed without reinserting implant lenses and in such cases, vision can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Glasses are generally prescribed after the operation as the implant is not as sophisticated as the body’s lens and cannot change its focus like a camera. You may need reading or distance glasses if not both.
More Information on Cataracts
Tips for Coping with Cataracts
You can try a few simple approaches to deal with the symptoms of cataracts:
- Make sure that you get the most accurate eyeglasses or contact lens prescription. You should have your eyes tested at regular intervals so that your prescription can be adapted accordingly.
- Improve all the lighting in the home. Also ensure that bright lights are placed strategically throughout the house in places where you may need to read or work.
- Wear sunglasses during the day to reduce glare and reduce chance of further UV damage.
- Limit night driving.
- Choose strong and contrasting colors for essentials in the home. These can be distinguished more easily.
- Organize, label, arrange and adapt various things in the home so that things are easy to find.
- Ask people in your house to always put things back where they were found. If things have their place – you will not have to worry about finding them.
- Anticipate obstacles and remove them before an accident occurs.