What is a cataract?
According to Healthline, a cataract is a dense, cloudy area that forms in the lens of the eye. A cataract begins when proteins in the eye form clumps that prevent the lens from sending clear images to the retina. It develops slowly and eventually interferes with your vision. You might end up with cataracts in both eyes, but they usually don’t form at the same time. There are different types of cataracts and different causes.
How do cataracts affect vision?
Cataracts can make your vision blurry, hazy, or colours may be muted. It can also make it difficult to read or perform other everyday activities.
Signs you might have a cataract include:
- Light sensitivity
- Trouble seeing at night
- Halos surrounding lights (link)
- Double vision
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Muted colour perception
At what age do cataracts develop?
Most cataracts according to the National Institute of Health are age related but can develop at different times depending on your risk factors. There are different types of cataracts known as secondary cataracts with other contributing factors that may develop at any age from steroid medication, diabetes and glaucoma. Congenital cataracts, which are present at birth or form during a baby’s first year, are less common than age-related cataracts.If you’ve undergone radiation therapy, you can develop radiation cataracts which are from the treatment and have nothing to do with age. Traumatic cataracts are another type of cataracts unrelated to age. They are caused by an eye injury or blunt force trauma. There have been some reports of traumatic brain injury or concussions contributing or causing cataracts. There is some debate as to whether this is from the blunt trauma of the brain injury, damaging the optic nerve (as it is in eye injury) or due to the likelihood of high doses of steroid medication often given after this type of injury.
What are some risk factors for cataracts?
Aging, UV exposure, trauma or injury, and certain diseases such as glaucoma may cause cataracts.
Risk factors include:
- Older age
- Heavy alcohol use
- High blood pressure
- Previous eye injuries- eye trauma can contribute to cataract development and there is also some evidence that concussions may impact eye health
- A family history of cataracts
- Too much sun exposure— if you participate in outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, your risk increases as the sun’s rays reflect off of these surfaces.
- Exposure to radiation from X-rays and cancer treatments
- Steroid medications such as prednisone often used to treat a variety of other conditions
How can I prevent cataracts?
The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends a diet high in antioxidants including fruits and vegetables. Wearing protective eyewear such as sunglasses with broad UV spectrum protection when outdoors, especially during outdoor activities on the water and snow, avoiding smoking and heavy alcohol use are other ways to keep you and your eyes in tip top shape.
I have cataracts. Now what?
In the early stages if you are still able to perform your daily activities and it’s not interfering with your vision too much your eye doctor may prescribe glasses or lenses that will help. Surgery may be needed as they develop and interfere with your vision and quality of life. It’s important to get a diagnosis and work with your eye doctor to monitor cataracts as over time they can lead to vision loss and blindness if left untreated. The good news is that surgery can get rid of cataracts and correct vision problems and is a common surgery that is generally safe.
Let’s Be Clear
Cataract surgery may alleviate your vision problems so that you can see more clearly, but it might not take away unrelated causes of blurred vision. After you’ve healed from surgery you may need a new prescription for reading glasses to adjust to your new level of vision and address any remaining vision issues that may not be resolved by surgery. If your eye doctor sends you to a specialist for cataract surgery be sure to follow all of the surgeon’s instructions for before and after care for the best results.