Cataracts are a well-known eye condition and one of the leading causes of vision loss across the globe. In fact, as many as 50% of Americans over the age of 80 will have cataracts or undergone surgery to restore their vision following cataract removal. Unfortunately, although it may be possible to temporarily improve your sight, ultimately surgery is the only way to fully restore your vision.
Cataracts develop when the proteins within the natural lens of the eye change and begin to clump together, causing cloudy patches in your vision that many people compare to looking through frosted glass. It’s not known exactly why some people experience cataracts and others don’t. However, studies suggest that certain habits and behaviors increase the likelihood of someone developing cataracts. These include:
High blood sugar levels (uncontrolled diabetes)
Exposure to radiation
Took much time in the sun without wearing adequate eye protection
Using steroid medication
A healthy lifestyle could help to prevent the development of cataracts as you age.
Cataracts are usually characterized by some or a combination of the following signs and symptoms:
Colors look faded or yellowish
You find it difficult to see clearly in low light
You find it difficult to drive at night
Sensitivity to bright light
Seeing halos around lights
Misty, blurred vision that seems as though you are looking through frosted glass
Frequent changes in your glasses or contact lens prescriptions
Cataracts can affect one eye or both, and the rate of development can vary between your eyes. If you are experiencing any of the signs of cataracts, it’s important that you seek an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms. Prompt treatment could help to preserve your vision for longer before more significant intervention is needed.
Initially, it may be possible to improve your vision using a combination of prescription lenses and brighter lighting which makes it easier for your eyes to focus. Nevertheless, cataracts will continue to develop. The only permanent way to restore your vision in the long term is to have cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery is extremely common and countless surgeries are performed every year. The goal of cataract surgery is to remove the clouded lens of the eye and replace it with an artificial alternative called an intraocular lens or IOL for short. There are lots of different types of IOLs and your cataract surgeon will help you to find the one that is best suited to your individual needs. The surgery is extremely safe and only requires patients to have a local anesthetic, though you may also be able to be sedated if you are particularly nervous. The clouded lens is removed through a small incision in the eye, which is also used to place the new one. The incision will heal itself, but you’ll be given medication in the form of eye drops which will speed up the healing process.
Unsurprisingly, your vision will remain blurred for some time after your surgery while your eyes heal. This disruption to your vision could last up to 8 weeks and so most patients are recommended to have cataract surgery on one eye at a time.
If you have further questions about the signs and symptoms of cataracts and the treatments that are available, or if you are concerned that you may be affected and would like to talk to someone about your vision, please speak to our dedicated eye care team in Bismarck, ND.