A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. This is an area that is normally clear. As this clouding happens, it keeps light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina. The retina is a tissue lining that is sensitive to light. It is located in the back of the eye. This cloudiness happens when some of the protein which makes up the lens of the eye begins to change its structure. It then gets in the way of your eyesight.
In its early stages, a cataract may not cause a problem. The cloudiness may affect only a small part of the lens. However, the cataract may grow larger over time and affect more of the lens. This can make it harder for you to see. If less light reaches the retina, it becomes even harder to see. Your vision may become dull and blurry. Cataracts cannot spread from one eye to another. Many people do, however, get cataracts in both eyes.
There are many types of cataracts:
Although experts don’t know for sure what causes cataracts, they think there could be several possible causes including:
For many of the possible causes, more research is needed to set apart the effect of the disease from the effect of the medicines.
Possible risk factors include:
The following are the most common symptoms of cataracts. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Often in the disease’s early stages, you may not notice any changes in your vision. Since cataracts tend to grow slowly, your eyesight will get worse slowly. Certain cataracts can also cause your close-up vision to get better for a short time. But your eyesight is likely to get worse as the cataract grows. The symptoms of cataracts may look like other eye conditions. Talk with a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and eye exam, tests to diagnose cataracts may include:
In addition, other tests may be done to help your eye care provider learn more about the health and structure of your eye.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
The symptoms of cataracts sometimes look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
In its early stages, loss of eyesight caused by a cataract may be helped with the use of different eyeglasses, a magnifying glass, or stronger lighting. When these actions are no longer helpful, surgery is the only effective treatment available. A cataract only needs to be removed when loss of eyesight gets in the way of your everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. You and your eye healthcare provider can make that decision together.
Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries. It is also one of the safest and most effective. Surgery involves swapping out the cloudy lens with a new lens. If you have cataracts in both eyes, they are usually not taken out at the same time. Your eye healthcare provider will need to do the surgery on each eye separately.
Cataracts are usually taken out in one of 2 ways:
The removed lens is replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL) in most cataract surgeries. An IOL is a clear, fake lens that does not need care. It becomes part of the eye. With an IOL, a person usually has better eyesight because light will be able to pass to the retina. The person does not see or feel the new lens.
Over time, cataracts will harm your vision. Cataract surgery can bring back your vision. However, a possible complication of cataract surgery is an “after-cataract.” An “after-cataract” happens when part of the natural lens that is purposely not taken out during cataract surgery becomes cloudy and blurs your eyesight. Unlike a cataract, an “after-cataract” can be treated with a method called YAG laser capsulotomy. The healthcare provider uses a laser beam to make a tiny hole in the cloudy membrane behind the lens to let the light pass through. After-cataracts may develop months, or even years, after cataract surgery.