Cataracts are usually a common part of everyone’s aging process. Approximately 1.5 million cataract surgeries are conducted in the U.S. a year. Many develop a cataract at some point in their life, but predominantly it will occur after the age of 60 years. The National Eye Institute states that more than half of all Americans will have a cataract or will have undergone surgery to remove a cataract by the age of 80 years.
Cataracts can develop in just one eye or both, but they are not in any way contagious and, therefore, do not spread from one eye to the other. They are described as a clouding over the eye lens that blurs a person’s vision – some say it’s like trying to look through a foggy window. Cataracts tend to develop rather slowly and do not at first present with any symptoms, but in time they get to a point where they can affect a person’s eyesight. At this time, it can become difficult to do such things as read or drive a car.
Cataracts occur when the protein composition of the eye’s lens changes and is no longer able to keep the lens clear or unable to allow light to pass through. This protein composition can start to clump and cloud a small area, which of course grows in time and can then create difficulty with one’s ability to see clearly.
Cataracts are thought to be caused by aging, most often, but also can occur from smoking, diabetes, trauma, medications (especially steroids), and prolonged exposure to UV light. Cataracts are another reason why protecting your eyes from the sun and other natural elements is so important. Very rarely, babies can be born with a cataract.
The following are a list of common symptoms of cataracts; however, many of these symptoms can occur due to other eye conditions so be sure to see an eye physician right away if any of them develop:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Colors seem faded
- Glare – headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright; a halo may appear around lights
- Poor night vision
- Double vision or multiple images in one eye (this symptom may clear as cataract gets larger)
- Frequent prescription changes for eyeglasses or contact lenses
The surgical procedure entails the removal of the cataract through either a procedure known as phacoemulsification (small incision) or by an extracapsular extraction (large incision). The success rate of cataract surgery is at about 95 percent, but of course as with any surgery complications can occur. Some common complications that can occur include infection and bleeding. Proper post-surgical care is necessary and if neglected can cause vision loss. This surgical procedure can slightly increase a person’s risk of developing retinal detachment.