Updated: Oct 1, 2020
A cataract is the opacification of the naturally clear lens in the eye. This crystalline structure aids in focusing light onto the retina to help us see. As we get older, this clear lens starts to become cloudy due changes in the protein structure of the lens. This happens as a natural aging process but can also happen due to UV exposure and other risk factors like smoking, taking steroid medications, or from injury or surgery to the eye.
Cataract formation due to aging happens very slowly and there are no obvious symptoms like pain or redness associated with it, which is why a lot of people may not be aware that they have cataracts. Having said that, surgery, which is currently the only recommended treatment for cataracts, is usually done when the cloudy lens starts to interfere with vision and daily activities. Cataract surgery is one of the oldest and most common surgical procedures performed throughout the world with a very high success rate.
Fun fact: This surgery has come a long way from the earliest version dating back to the 5th century B.C.! There have been so many advancements in this treatment making it not only a way to treat cataract surgery but also a refractive procedure (used to improve one’s vision)
As I mentioned earlier, there are not many noticeable symptoms of age-related cataracts besides vision that is constantly deteriorating. Some others include glare issues, halos around lights, and difficulty seeing at night. Wearing sunglasses regularly when outdoors, not only on sunny days but also cloudy days, is important to protect our eyes and slow down the progression of cataracts. In fact, the sun’s rays can reflect off the snow and ice in winter days making it more harmful. Regular visits with your optometrist are necessary to diagnose cataracts and determine the proper treatment course.
Other types of cataracts include congenital cataracts, which is when a child is either born with a damaged lens or develops a cloudy lens at a young age due to different reasons including infections, birth trauma, malnutrition or congenital abnormalities. This is another good reason why children should have their eye exams regularly starting with their first one at 6 months and then yearly thereafter (unless otherwise recommended by the optometrist). Cataracts can develop as a result of certain systemic conditions like diabetes, or from certain kinds of medications including steroids. Smoking can significantly increase the risk of developing cataracts as well. Traumatic cataracts are also common due to injury or physical damage to the lens capsule. Wearing safety glasses in workplaces with hazardous conditions can significantly reduce the risk of such injury. Come talk to us about safety glasses, eye exams for children, or any other questions you may have regarding cataracts!