Abrams Eye Institute
It may be a surprise to some people to learn that cataracts are the leading cause of blindness. Cataracts usually develop slowly and sufferers will experience blurred or cloudy vision that gradually worsens over time. Fortunately, modern surgical procedures developed to treat this condition make it possible for ophthalmologists to address this issue using a procedure that is both quick and painless.
The dangers of untreated cataracts
Given that cataracts are fairly common, particularly in seniors, it is likely that there are a significant number of individuals that have begun to develop cataracts and are not yet aware of it. Early stages of cataract development may lead some seniors to believe that their worsening vision is simply the result of aging and not realize the severity of their condition until cataracts begin to have a very detrimental effect on their vision.
Left untreated, cataracts will eventually cause significant disruption in everyday life and interfere with normal activities like driving a car or watching television. Regular visits to the eye doctor will increase the chances that cataracts are discovered early. The patient may be referred to an ophthalmologist for further diagnosis and possible surgery. Cataract surgery often presents opportunities to correct other vision problems such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism, which may enable patients to discontinue the use of eyeglasses or contact lenses permanently.
Modern advances in cataract eye surgery
Today, ophthalmologists use state-of-the-art surgical techniques such as the use of femtosecond lasers to painlessly remove cataracts and restore normal vision. A qualified ophthalmologist will present all available options in order to help the patient make an informed decision regarding treatment.
How cataracts develop
Much like a camera, the human eye contains a lens that provides a clear picture of the world by focusing vision onto the retina. It is essential that the lens remain completely clear and unobstructed in order to maintain normal vision. With advancing years and other contributing factors such as poor nutrition, ultraviolet light, diabetes, smoking and previous eye injuries, the clarity of the lens can be diminished due to the denaturation of the proteins that make up the structure of the lens. This process is not reversible, and without treatment it is possible that blindness will eventually result.
Who is at risk of getting cataracts?
The likelihood of developing cataracts increases as a person ages, with as many as 50 percent of individuals over the age of 65 developing cataracts that will impact their ability to lead a normal life. Some powerful medications such as steroids or chemotherapy can increase a person’s chance of developing cataracts at an earlier age.
Individuals experiencing any of the following symptoms should see their eye doctor for an examination:
• Blurred or cloudy vision
• Increased difficulty seeing at night
• Increased sensitivity to light
• The appearance of "halos" around lights
• Faded or diminished perception of color
• Double vision in one eye
Although the symptoms indicating cataracts are usually recognized easily, the only way to properly diagnose the condition is through an examination by an ophthalmologist. A prompt diagnosis is recommended to arrange treatment and rule out any other causes.