Cataracts: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Options

Posted on: 6 March 2015

If you are 40 years of age or older and have been experiencing visual changes such as blurred vision or sensitivity to bright lights, it is important to schedule an eye examination as soon as possible. While these symptoms can signify a variety of eye conditions, they are also telltale symptoms of cataracts, a common condition in aging individuals that is easily treatable, but can lead to severe vision loss if left untreated. Understanding the causes and symptoms of cataracts and consulting with an eye care professional can help to ensure an accurate diagnosis and efficient treatment, allowing for improved vision and prevention of complications. 

What are Cataracts and What Causes Them?

Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded due to natural alterations of the eye lens tissues. Cataracts are commonly caused by the natural aging process, but can also occur as the result of eye injuries and medical conditions such as diabetes. Natural aging can cause the lenses to become less flexible, which in turn causes the underlying tissues to cluster together. The clustered material causes light to become hindered as it passes through the lens, resulting in cloudy and distorted vision. Additional factors that can increase the risk of cataract development include continual sun exposure, alcoholism, radiation exposure and obesity. 

Symptoms of Cataracts

Cataracts tend to develop gradually, with symptoms typically affecting only a portion of the eye. As cataracts grow, vision becomes increasingly worse. Symptoms include cloudy or dimmed vision that slowly progresses, difficulty seeing at night and double vision in one eye. Individuals with developing cataracts may also notice circular light halos around light bulbs, lamps and lighted objects. Colors may also appear faded or yellowed, and sufferers may also find that their vision no longer improves when wearing eyeglasses. 

Cataract Treatment Options

When cataracts are in the early stages, eye doctors often recommend anti-glare eyeglasses or magnifying eyeglasses to improve vision; however, if these treatments prove ineffective, the only other option is cataract surgery. The most common type of cataract surgery is phacoemulsifaction, an advanced cataract surgery procedure that is minimally invasive and allows for a fast healing period. During a phacoemulsification procedure, the eye surgeon creates a small incision in the cornea, the circular shaped layer of tissue on the eye's surface. A small ultrasound tool is then inserted into the incision. The tool works to break apart the clouded-over eye lens. Once the eye lens has been broken into small fragments, the pieces are suctioned out, and a synthetic eye lens is placed inside the eye. Once the lens or lenses are placed, they require no additional treatment and work in the same fashion as a natural eye lenses. 

Improved Vision and Focus

While cataracts are a common part of the aging process, the reality is that the condition can lead to severely compromised vision and blindness if left untreated. Fortunately, cataracts can be treated with specialty eyewear and simple surgical procedures that allow for significantly improved vision, focus and clarity. 

Speak with experts like Northwest Ophthalmology for more information.