A cataract is an eye condition where a cloudy area develops in the eye and begins to distort your vision. When someone has a cataract, the eye lens hardens and it appears as though the person has a cloudy spot that covers the center of the pupil. Cataracts can develop as you get older, but there are also versions of cataracts that can develop in younger people.
What Causes Cataracts?
There are some life factors that could lead you to be more likely to develop cataracts. These include having a previous eye surgery, diabetes, smoking, using steroid medication long-term, and drinking too much alcohol. Other factors that could cause you to develop cataracts include eye injuries or inherited gene disorders.
Top Signs of Cataracts
Cataracts appear as a cloudy or white film that forms on the eyeball. Sometimes, especially in later stages, cataracts can appear visible to others. This eye condition is caused by proteins in the eye that clump together, which causes the cloudy film. There are some top early signs that you have cataracts and need to see an eye doctor.
Spotty, Cloudy or Double Vision
The main symptom of cataracts, and often the first sign that something is wrong, is experiencing changes to the vision. The first thing people notice with cataracts is that their vision is cloudy and it can appear that you are now looking through fog. Another early sign of cataracts is blurriness. Since blurriness and cloudiness are two main symptoms of cataracts, those who have this eye condition can also have double vision, where you see two of one thing. You can also experience spottiness in your eyesight and there is an increasing white spot in the center of your vision.
Frequent Changes in Contact or Eye Glasses Prescription
If you have cataracts, it’s likely that it increases the speed at which your vision deteriorates. In the early stages, you may need to change your contact lenses or eyeglass prescription more often than you typically would. Many people that have cataracts say that their prescription changes every few months. Normally, a person would only need an updated prescription every couple of years. Cataracts can increase the intensity at which eye vision deteriorates. Some individuals notice eyesight changing or dimming suddenly, but normally it’s harder for a person to know that their eyesight is changing too much since it goes at such a slow pace.
Need for Brighter Lighting to See Objects
In the early stages of cataracts, you may need to increase the level of lighting around you in order to see. In the beginning, the cataract and eye cloudiness are still mild enough that a brighter light can help you see as normal. This is especially true if you are doing an activity that requires you to focus, such as reading.
Sensitivity to Glare and Light
In the beginning, you may not have a sensitivity to light and glare, and the brighter lights do in fact help you see better. However, as the cataracts advance, you can become more and more sensitive to glare and light, even though you may need more direct light to see.
Seeing Some Halos around Lights
When you have cataracts, you may begin to see halos around lights. This is usually the case with posterior subcapsular cataracts. These occur when the cloudy area starts in the back of the lens which blocks the path of light. When the cataract forms in the eye then you start to see halos around lights, especially at night.
Difficulty Seeing during Nighttime
As your eyesight becomes cloudier, it can be harder to see as well as drive at night. Driving is especially hard when eyesight becomes both distorted and blurry.
If a cataract advances to the later stages, then the eyes, as well as eyesight, can go to different shades of grey, yellow, and eventually black. The darkening of the eye is another factor as to why those who have more advanced cataracts can have trouble seeing at night.
When to See an Eye Doctor When Concerned about Cataracts
If you notice any changes in your vision, you should always make an appointment for an eye exam. If you have any sudden changes to vision, such as flashes of light, double vision, or sudden eye pain, you want to see your eye doctor right away.
How Is a Cataract Diagnosed?
Symptoms of cataracts can be general and may mirror other eye conditions, especially the early symptoms of just slight changes in vision. In order to determine whether or not you have a cataract, your eye doctor will review your symptoms and medical history, and perform an eye exam. Your doctor can also do some other tests in order to get a proper diagnosis.
A visual acuity test will use an eye chart to measure how well you can see. This is your typical eye test, where your eyes are tested one at a time when you cover the other eye. Your eye doctor can then see if you have sudden changes in your prescription. A slit-lamp exam allows the eye doctor to see structures at the front of the eye using magnification. The light helps illuminate your lens, iris, cornea, and the space between the cornea and iris. This will help your eye doctor view the structures of your eye in small sections and this allows him or her to detect tiny abnormalities in the eye. A retinal exam uses eye drops in the eye in order to examine the back of the eye where the retina is. Your eye doctor can then look at the lens for any signs of cataracts.
Preventing Cataracts from Getting Worse
You aren’t able to treat cataracts with diet or exercise, but you can do a few things in order to reduce your chances of getting cataracts and prevent any existing cataracts from progressing to needing surgery.
It’s important to get regular eye exams so your vision can be tested and your eye doctor can diagnose and treat any problems before they become even worse. If you have diabetes, it can lead to a number of eye problems, including a higher chance of getting cataracts. It’s important to watch your blood sugar level because the lens of the eye can swell if your blood sugar is too high for a long period of time. Smoking is associated with a number of health conditions and can also lead to cataracts. It’s best to quit smoking for your overall eye health. Since the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be damaging to the eyes, even on cloudy days, it’s important to wear sunglasses.
Treatment for Cataracts
In the early stages of cataracts, it’s possible that prescription glasses can help clear vision. However, the only way cataracts can effectively be treated is with surgery. It’s best to speak with your eye doctor about whether or not surgery is right for you at the time. Most of the time, your eye doctor will suggest cataract surgery when cataracts begin to affect your quality of life or start interfering with your ability to perform normal activities, such as driving at night or reading.
Since cataracts don’t typically harm the eyes there is no rush to remove them with surgery. Delaying the procedure doesn’t affect how well your vision recovers so it’s a good idea to discuss the best timing with your eye doctor. If you choose not to have cataract surgery right away then it’s important to have follow-up visits with your doctor to see how the cataracts are progressing. There are certain conditions that can make cataracts worsen quicker, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In these cases, you may need to see your eye doctor more often.
Contact Florida Eye Specialists & Cataract Institute
We are dedicated to being the premier surgery and eye care center on the Florida west coast. If you are experiencing any symptoms of cataracts, don’t wait to get your vision checked so an eye doctor can go over your options with you. Cataracts are a condition we see and treat most often and we have some of the most experienced and skilled surgeons in the field to treat your cataracts so that you can resume normal activities and get your eyesight restored. We have new advanced laser cataract surgery available to give you even more precision than traditional options. Contact our specialists today.