Blurry vision and light sensitivity from cataracts can interfere with daily tasks, like driving and reading.
A cataract is the clouding of the eye's natural lens. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in patients over 40.
How do I know if my blurry vision is caused by cataracts?
Defining Symptoms of Cataracts
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.
Lifestyle Choices Can Increase Your Risk
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.
Cataracts Start Out Small
Lenses Change As You Age
As we age, our eyesight begins to deteriorate. Over time, the lens becomes thicker, less transparent, and less flexible.
Clumps Begin to Develop
The tissues within the lens start to break down and slowly clump together. This process gradually clouds the lens.
Cataracts Get Larger
As the clumps become larger, they can spread further across the lens. This diminishes your ability to see even further and can eventually lead to blindness.
Is there any hope of preserving my vision with cataracts?
According to the National Eye Institute, about half of all Americans will develop cataracts by the age of 80. However, there is hope to prevent complete vision loss. "The best way to ensure vision stays healthy for a lifetime is to schedule a visit with an ophthalmologist. In fact, more than 90 percent of people who have cataract surgery regain useful vision."
-Richard P. Mills, M.D.
Ways to Reduce Your Risk and Slow Progression of Cataracts
Refrain from Smoking and Drinking Alcohol
Smoking more than doubles your risk of developing cataracts. Studies show that the more you smoke or drink in excess, the greater your risk of cataracts. Dropping or reducing these habits can help protect your eye health.
Eat a Balanced Diet
A diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help reduce your risk of developing cataracts. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, are especially important to maintaining the health of your eyes.
Wear Sunglasses with UV Protection
Do not expose your eyes to harmful ultraviolet light. Wearing 99 percent UV-absorption sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat can help minimize abnormal growths within the eye.
Discover the Presence of Cataracts During an Eye Exam
During a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor can evaluate the quality of your vision, as well as the structure of your eye to determine if you have cataracts.
A slit lamp illuminates the cornea, iris, and lens to reveal signs of a cataract.
A visual acuity test can be used to assess your ability to see at a variety of distances. To examine your eye in more detail, your doctor may perform a slit lamp test and a retinal exam. Using eye drops to dilate the eye, he or she can also examine the back of the retina and lens.
Surgery is The Only Way to Remove Cataracts
Surgery may be recommended for patients with more advanced cataracts that significantly affect their daily lives. During cataract surgery, the clouded lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. A new lens can alleviate symptoms and restore clear vision.
Contacts and Glasses
If you do not wish to undergo surgery or are in the beginning stages of cataracts, you can manage your symptoms with glasses or contacts. However, surgery is the only way to prevent blindness once cataracts have progressed.
Take Control of Your Condition With Help From Your Doctor
Losing your vision can be frightening, but you have the power to take control of your eyesight. Your doctor can help you manage symptoms or directly address advanced cataracts. Schedule your exam to find out if you have cataracts and review your treatment options.
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