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Cataract: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

A cataract is a common eye condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It can cause blurred vision, trouble reading, and difficulty seeing in low-light conditions.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent and treat cataracts. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes and symptoms of cataracts, as well as the prevention and treatment options available to you. So, let’s dive in!

Causes

There are several known causes of cataracts, including:

  • Aging – The likelihood of developing cataracts rises as we get older. Cataracts related to aging can form from the ages of 40 to 50.
  • Genetics – Cataracts can run in families.
  • Eye injury – Trauma to the eye can cause a cataract.
  • Medical conditions – Diabetes, hypertension, and other medical conditions can increase the risk of cataracts.
  • Prolonged use of steroids – Taking steroid medications for a long period of time can lead to cataract development.
  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation – Long-term exposure to UV radiation can increase the risk of cataracts.
  • Smoking – Smoking can increase the risk of cataracts.
  • Alcohol consumption – Heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of cataracts.
  • Poor nutrition – A diet lacking in certain nutrients may increase the risk of cataracts.
a person with cataract

Symptoms

The symptoms of cataracts can vary depending on the severity and location of the cloudiness in the eye lens. Here are some of the common symptoms of cataracts:

  • Blurred, cloudy, or hazy vision
  • Sensitivity to glare and bright light
  • Difficulty seeing at night or in low-light conditions
  • Colors appear faded or yellowed
  • Double vision in one eye
  • Frequent need to change eyeglass prescription
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Difficulty reading or doing close-up tasks
  • Frequent eye prescription changes
  • The declining vision can’t be corrected with glasses.

It’s important to note that the early stages of cataracts may not produce noticeable symptoms, which is why routine eye exams are recommended to catch any potential problems early on.

Related: Subtle Eye Symptoms That Need Medical Attention

Treatment – Surgery

During cataract surgery, the cloudy natural lens is removed from the eye, and a clear artificial lens is implanted. The procedure typically takes about 10-15 minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you can return home the same day.

Here is a brief overview of the cataract surgery process:

  1. Before the surgery, numbing eye drops are administered to ensure you remain comfortable throughout the procedure.
  2. Once the eye is numb, a tiny incision is made in the eye to allow the ophthalmologist to access the natural lens.
  3. Using ultrasonic energy, the natural lens is then carefully broken up and removed from the eye.
  4. A clear, artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL) is then implanted in place of the natural lens.
  5. The incision in the eye is very small and usually does not require stitches.
  6. After surgery, the patient is monitored for a short period before it is determined that they can safely leave the hospital.
  7. Rest and avoid putting pressure on the eye until the follow-up visit with the ophthalmologist.

It is important to follow the post-operative instructions given by the ophthalmologist, which may include using eye drops to reduce inflammation and infection, avoiding strenuous activities, and attending follow-up appointments. The healing process may take a few weeks and it is important to attend your scheduled appointments with your doctor.

cataract post surgery

Prevention

There is no guaranteed way to avoid developing cataracts, as it is a natural part of the aging process for many individuals. However, there are some steps that may help reduce the risk of developing cataracts:

  • Protect your eyes from UV radiation using sunglasses and a hat when outdoors.
  • Stop smoking or abstain from smoking.
  • Manage medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
  • Follow a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Have regular eye exams to ensure early detection of any problems.
  • Use safety eyewear when appropriate in certain professions.

It is important to note that while some of these preventative measures may reduce the risk of developing cataracts or slow down their progression, there is no guaranteed way to avoid developing cataracts completely. 

Regular eye examinations and early detection can help address any issues before they become severe. Your healthcare provider can offer guidance on how to reduce your risk factors for cataracts.

Related: Eye Health: Beware of These Everyday Habits That May Be Affecting Your Eyes

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens that affects vision. It is a common age-related eye condition.

Can cataracts be prevented?

As mentioned above, there is no guaranteed way to avoid developing cataracts, but some preventative measures include wearing sunglasses when outside, managing certain medical conditions, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking.

How is a cataract diagnosed?

Cataracts can be detected with a comprehensive eye exam, where your eye doctor will perform a visual acuity test, dilated eye exam, and other tests to evaluate your eye’s health.

Can cataracts be treated without surgery?

There is no known way to reverse cataracts without surgical intervention. However, some symptoms of cataracts can be managed with lifestyle adjustments, prescription glasses or contacts, and stronger lighting.

When is cataract surgery necessary?

Cataract surgery is recommended when the cloudy vision severely interferes with daily activities, causing difficulty driving, reading, or performing normal life activities.

Is cataract surgery safe?

Cataract surgery is considered to be one of the safest and most effective surgeries available today. It is typically performed on an outpatient basis, and most patients resume normal daily activities soon after surgery.

How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?

Typically, it takes a few weeks to fully recover from cataract surgery. During this time, you may need to use eye drops to help with healing and avoid strenuous activities or heavy lifting.

Will I be able to see right after having cataract surgery?

Most people report improved vision immediately following cataract surgery, but full visual acuity may take more time to develop. In some cases, it may take a few days or weeks to notice a significant improvement in vision.

Is cataract surgery covered by insurance?

Cataract surgery is typically covered by insurance, including Medicare, if deemed medically necessary by an ophthalmologist. However, some additional costs may apply, such as the cost of premium lenses or other specialized surgical techniques, and these may not be covered by all insurance plans.

Is cataract surgery performed under general anesthesia?

Cataract surgery is typically performed under local anesthesia, although general anesthesia may be used in some cases.

Can cataracts return after surgery?

Cataracts cannot return after surgery. However, some patients may experience a secondary cataract, which is caused by the clouding of the natural membrane covering the lens implant.

What are the risks associated with cataract surgery?

Although rare, potential risks include infection, inflammation, bleeding, changes in eye pressure, retinal detachment, and loss of vision.

Related: 5 Simple and Effective Ways to Protect Your Eyesight

Space Coast Ophthalmology offers comprehensive eye exams to detect any possible issues with your eyes before they become major problems. Early detection and prevention are crucial in the case of cataracts. Our team of eye care experts can assist you in protecting your vision for many years to come. Contact us now to schedule an appointment.

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