Cataract is a leading causing of blindness in the U.S. and is estimated to affect more than 22 million Americans. June is cataract awareness month – a month that many eye doctors dedicate to helping people understand what cataracts are, how to spot them and what they can do if they are affected.
Vision is a fairly complex process. For us to see, light travels into our eyes, passing through a natural lens which is responsible for focusing the light and transmitting a signal to our brain to tell us what we can see. A cataract is the name given to a condition characterized by the clouding of the natural lens of the eye. This clouding interrupts the passage of light into the eye, affecting the quality of our vision.
Cataracts are normally associated with the older generation, and this is because they are primarily caused by natural age-related changes to the eye. However, there are also some external factors that could make someone more likely to develop cataracts. These include:
Recurrent eye infections
Extensive exposure to UV light
Some medications, such as steroids
Exposure to extreme heat
Exposure to radiation
If the patient has certain medical conditions, for example, diabetes
Smoking and hereditary factors have also been identified as contributing factors.
Cataracts usually form in both eyes, but they do not always develop at the same rate, and you may find one eye is affected more than the other.
Blurred or dimmed vision are typically the most noticeable symptoms of cataracts, but there are also many other indicators, including:
Feeling dazzled by strong light
Vision like there is a fine film over your eyes
Regularly changing eyeglass prescriptions, but without seeing any benefit when wearing the new lenses
In some instances, there may be a visible light-colored spot on the pupil of the eye
If you are concerned that you may have a cataract, a simple examination by Dr. Goel can yield a diagnosis.
Much of the time, cataracts are actually identified and diagnosed at annual comprehensive eye exams long before patients are even aware that they have the condition. This is due to the fact that eye exams are designed to detect diseases and other problems affecting the eyes early on, so that they can be treated promptly - before patients experience a decline in their vision or any other debilitating symptoms.
Some of the tests that may be used by your eye doctor to diagnose a cataract could include:
A retinal exam. This exam enables your eye doctor to see the structures at the back of your eyes, and in particular, an area of light-sensitive cells called the retina. By viewing them, they can check if there are any abnormalities. You’ll be given dilating eye drops to make your pupils wider, before your eye doctor uses a piece of equipment called a slit lamp to examine the back of your eyes.
In addition to the retinal exam, the slit lamp will also be used to visualize the structures ay the front of your eye under intense magnification. Again, your eye doctor will be looking for anything unusual.
A visual acuity test. You’ll be asked to read letters from a chart and words from a book so that your eye doctor can check how well you can see at various differences. This is important because it will let them know the extent to which your vision may be impaired.
In the early stages of cataracts, new prescription lenses and brighter lighting are often sufficient to help patients to see clearly. However, cataracts are a progressive condition, meaning that your eyesight will continue to get progressively worse over time and unfortunately, there is nothing that can really be done to stop this happening.
Cataract surgery is the primary treatment used to remove cataracts from the eyes. The Surgery involves removing the natural, clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial alternative that can’t be affected by cataracts in the future, called an intraocular lens or IOL. There are many different types of IOL and your eye doctor will be pleased to help you find the variety that suits you.
Cataract surgery is very common, without countless procedures performed across the United States every year. You’ll nearly always need to have your eyes operated on one at a time since it can take a number of weeks for your vision to clear after your surgery.
If you’d like more information about cataracts, call Lifetime Vision and Eye Care at (305) 902-3320 to reach our office in Miami Gardens, Florida.