Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States among adults over the age of 55. A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. The lens is made of water and protein, but age and environmental factors can make the protein clump together and prevent the lens from focusing correctly. Although a cataract begins small, it grows over time and will prevent clear vision. Cataracts will cause gradual vision loss until a surgeon removes the cataract and replaces the old lens with a man-made, intraocular lens known as an IOL.
Cataracts are Common
By the time they are 70 years of age, more than 50 percent of all Americans will have cataracts. Cataracts can be caused by age, UV ray exposure, drugs, toxic substances, radiation, smoking, alcohol consumption or eye injury. Because cataracts begin gradually, they can progress without notice. You may not even know that you have cataracts, and many people are unaware of their condition until their eye doctor diagnoses cataracts at a comprehensive eye exam.
Symptoms of Cataracts
As cataracts advance, you may experience some symptoms. A few warning signs of cataracts may be:
- Cloudy vision
- Difficulty seeing at night or while driving
- Discolored pupil that will look gray or white to others
- Sensitivity to glare
- Seeing “halos” around lights
- Colors looking faded or yellowed
- Double vision in the affected eye
Importance of Comprehensive Eye Exams
Because cataracts develop so slowly, regular eye exams are important. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a comprehensive eye exam every year or two, if you are over the age of 65. Your doctor will evaluate your vision and will dilate your eye to examine the condition of the lens in both eyes. If you have a cataract, your doctor can talk to you about options to replace your lens with an IOL. An IOL requires no care and becomes a permanent part of your eye. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries in the United States and is extremely safe and effective.
Contact a physician in your area to learn more about preserving your vision and whether cataract surgery is right for you.