What is a Cataract?
Inside of your eye, directly by the pupil, sits a small lens about the size of a plain M&M. This lens is responsible for focusing light on the retina in the back of the eye. Any clouding of this lens is called a cataract.
Signs and Symptoms of Cataracts
The most common symptoms of a cataract are:
What causes Cataracts?
The vast majority of cataracts are caused by age. When we are younger, the lens inside of the eye is very clear and flexible. As we age, cells within the lens continue to divide within a combined space resulting in a hardening of the lens and a loss of flexibility called presbyopia. This causes reading problems in the forties. As the aging process continues, cellular waste products build up causing the lens to cloud and become a cataract. Cataracts usually develop slowly over decades but they can be accelerated by excessive UV radiation, diabetes, smoking and use of steroid medications such as prednisone and cortisone. Cataracts can also develop very quickly after trauma to the eye or from certain invasive eye surgeries such as a retinal detachment repair. In rare instances, babies can be born with congenital cataracts which must be removed quickly to prevent a permanent vision complication called nystagmus.
How are Cataracts Diagnosed?
Everyone past the age of fifty has some degree of cataract formation. Usually the vision loss is insignificant until sixty or seventy years of age. Cataracts are diagnosed by your eye doctor during a dilated pupil examination. Dilated pupils allow for an easier view of the lens and also allow your doctor to determine if there are any other problems deeper in the eye. A slit lamp (lighted microscope) will be used to determine the amount of cataract formation. This procedure is painless.
How are Cataracts Treated?
Surgical removal is the only treatment available for cataracts. Surgery is indicated when the cataracts are significantly affecting the patient’s life style which can be anywhere from fifty to ninety years of age. Modern cataract surgery is one of the safest surgical procedures with a very low complication rate. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed by an ophthalmologist and replaced with a shiny new plastic lens which will last for the rest of your life. After cataract surgery, patients usually still need glasses to read. However, a new generation of custom cataract implants such as the Crystalens and Restore implants now allow patients to have minimal glasses needs (distance and near) following cataract surgery.
What Steps should I take if I think I have Cataracts?
Annual eye examinations are the best way to diagnose and follow cataract formation. Dr. Reinders has 22 years experience diagnosing cataracts and related conditions. The sooner he can check your eyes, the better. All doctors agree that waiting and hoping it will get better is not a prescription for success.