Do You Have Cataracts?

Have you begun to notice that your vision appears more cloudy, blurry or dim than it used to? Perhaps you also see halos around lights or feel like you have double vision in one of your eyes. If you're an adult around retirement age, there's a good chance these symptoms are due to cataracts. Read on to learn more about cataracts and how they'll affect you.

What causes cataracts?

Cataracts are a clouding and thickening of the lens of the eye. This clouding results from the malformation of certain proteins in the lens structure. Cataracts develop slowly, and they don't usually appear until patients enter their senior years. If you have diabetes, take steroid medications, are a regular smoker, or spend a lot of time in the sun, you put yourself at an increased risk of cataracts.

Will the symptoms get worse?

Cataracts are a progressive ailment, so the visual impairment you're experiencing now is just the beginning. Over time, your lenses will become more and more clouded, so your vision will get blurrier. You can slow the progression somewhat by avoiding smoking, keeping your blood sugar in check, and limiting your sun exposure. Every case progresses at a different rate, though.

How are cataracts treated?

While the cataracts are still minor, treatment will involve simply using stronger glasses and better lighting to enable you to see clearly. If your cataracts progress to the point that they're inhibiting your ability to live your daily life, your eye doctor will likely recommend surgery.

Surgery is the only treatment for cataracts. During this procedure, the clouded lens is removed from the eye, and an artificial lens is put into its place. Cataract surgery is very common and safe; most surgeries are now performed using lasers for increased accuracy.

What should you do it you think you have cataracts?

Make an appointment with an ophthalmologist. He or she will conduct a series of tests to examine your eyes and assess your vision. You will have to undergo a dilated pupil exam, which will leave your eyes sensitive to light for a few hours, so it's best to have someone drive you to and from your appointment.

If you do indeed have cataracts, your eye doctor will work with you to find a glasses prescription that improves your vision. Follow-up appointments will be made, and your eye doctor will keep track of how your cataracts progress in order to determine when you're ready for surgery.