What Are Cataracts?
In the majority of people, cataracts are simply a natural part of the aging process that start to show up after the age of 40, the approximate age when the proteins within the lens of the eye often begin to deteriorate and/or bunch together. The fogginess resulting from cataracts progressively worsens and stops light from arriving at the retina the way it should. This fogging of the lens of the eye results in vision impairment and, eventually, complete blindness if not discovered in time and treated correctly.
Board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Daniel Tepper and his team are equipped for detecting and addressing cataracts in their initial stages, as well as in supporting you in effectively treating any progressing symptoms. At Wicker Park Eye Center, we see patients suffering from cataracts nearly every day. Having cataracts is incredibly common — so common that cataract surgery is the number one surgery conducted in the US. Close to 2 million people get cataract surgery each year. The disease can form quite slowly, so patients with the onset stages usually are unaware of it. Cataracts are a major reason why scheduling comprehensive eye exams a minimum of every two years is key to your total eye health.
Contact our Chicago, IL practice soon to plan a comprehensive exam or discover how we can help you get in control of your symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms of Cataracts?
The most common symptoms of cataracts often include:
Increasingly Blurry Vision
Though your lens may not look cloudy, your vision will become increasingly blurry as the cataract spreads. You may also develop double vision in a single eye, though this symptom typically dissipates as the cataract grows larger.
Changes in Vision Quality
Cataracts can affect several aspects of your vision. Colors may appear dull or faded, and you may see glares and halos around lights. It is also common to develop light sensitivity, and you may notice that the quality of your night vision diminishes.
Frequent Changes to Your Prescription
Since cataracts are progressive, you may need to repeatedly strengthen your corrective eyewear prescription to accommodate vision loss.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts are the result of getting older and the natural degeneration of the proteins within the lens of the eye. This breakdown takes place in all men and women, though there are other behavioral and health factors that could speed up the process. Lifestyle issues, for example, smoking cigarettes, excessive drinking, and extended UV-ray exposure, have been associated with cataracts, as well as some medical conditions like diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure. Further factors that might hasten the condition include:
- Degenerative myopia
- Trauma to the eye
- Some medications, like steroids
- Some types of eye surgery
How Are Cataracts Diagnosed?
To find out whether a person has cataracts, an ophthalmologist or optometrist must do an in-depth eye exam. Our team at Wicker Park Eye Center is very experienced in the tests done in a comprehensive cataract exam. The most effective tests to examine a patient for a cataract are all very simple, fast, and cause minimal discomfort.
First, Dr. Tepper will carry out a standard vision test. This is generally done using the familiar eye chart. After that, he may perform a contrast sensitivity test, which is very similar to a vision test but gauges the patient’s ability to see contrast in images. Then, a slit-lamp exam is usually given. During a slit-lamp exam, Dr. Tepper uses an ophthalmic microscope that shines a powerful but particularly narrow “slit” of light into the eye to observe its more outward structures. Lastly, he will conduct the retinal exam and, depending on the results, a potential acuity (PAM) exam. In order to do these tests, enlarging the pupils using special eye drops is required. Dilation of the pupils is very important because it enables the largest vantage point to check the complete lens for any areas of cataract. If any are found, then the PAM will likely be done. A PAM measures a patient’s possible clarity of vision without the cataract. The PAM can be very important in selecting which IOL to use if the patient should have cataract surgery.
How Are Cataracts Treated?
If Dr. Tepper establishes a patient has cataracts, he can outline the different approaches to treatment. These treatments for cataracts are selected according to the severity of the disease. In the beginning stages, a lot of patients simply need new prescription glasses or contact lenses. Patients with more advanced cataracts, however, may need a stronger solution, such as laser or traditional cataract surgery. Dr. Tepper and his wonderful team are committed to offering each of our patients the most effective care. Depending on the stage of the condition, we sometimes treat cataract patients in our Chicago, IL facility or recommend they see a trusted specialist.
What Increases Your Risk For Developing Cataracts?
Your lifestyle, as well as certain medical conditions, can make you more likely to develop cataracts. Risk factors include:
- Severe myopia
- Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation
- Long-term use of corticosteroids
- Alcohol consumption
- Previous eye injuries or surgeries
Additionally, patients with a family history of cataracts may be predisposed to the condition. Now, let's dive into how a cataract forms.
When should you have cataracts removed?
When your cataracts reduce your vision to where it begins to interfere with your daily life, affecting reading, driving, working, or enjoying regular activities, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment at Wicker Park Eye Center.
How common are cataracts?
According to the National Eye Institute, more than 50% of adults over age 80 have cataracts. Many people begin developing cataracts after about age 50.
Is laser cataract surgery better than traditional cataract surgery?
Because both procedures are safe and effective to treat cataracts, there is no "best" cataract treatment, only which treatment is best to give you the optimal results for your cataracts. During your consultation, Dr. Tepper will perform a thorough eye exam, review your medical history, and explain the benefits of each to help you determine which procedure is right for you.
How can I help prevent cataracts?
While cataracts caused by the natural effects of aging aren't avoidable, there are some things you can do to lower your risk of developing cataracts or delay their development, including:
- Wearing sunglasses with UV protection
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- If diabetic, regularly monitoring blood sugar
get clearer Vision Today
Chicago, IL, and Greater Chicago area patients who are experiencing any symptoms like these or who haven’t had a comprehensive eye exam in the last two years need to make an appointment with Wicker Park Eye Center at their earliest convenience. Especially for those who are over the age of 40, receiving comprehensive eye exams every two years is key to finding and treating cataracts and several other eye diseases. With an accurate diagnosis, we can recommend a unique plan to treat your cataracts.
What are the First Signs of Cataracts?
The first signs of cataracts may include blurriness, altered color vision, sensitivity, double vision, or seeing halos around lights.Read
What Should I Avoid if I Have Cataracts?
If you have cataracts, it’s best to avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Find out more about your options for optimal eye health here.Read
In What Ways Do Cataracts Affect Vision?
Take a closer look at how cataracts can progressively deteriorate your vision, and find out what symptoms may mean you are developing cataracts.Read
Glaucoma vs Cataracts
While glaucoma and cataracts both impact the vision, they are two markedly different conditions.Read