June is Cataract Awareness Month! This month’s blog will cover what cataracts are and what can be done to prevent and treat them.

What is a cataract?
A cataract is when the crystalline lens inside of the eye becomes cloudy. If the cataract becomes dense enough this cloudiness can lead to blurry vision. Patients with cataracts will often find that their vision becomes gradually blurry and an update to the glasses prescription doesn’t help as much as it used to. Cataracts can also cause difficulty driving at night, difficulty reading in dim light, or glare and halos around light sources. Some types of cataracts can also cause changes in a person’s eyeglass prescription such as an increase in nearsightedness. Cataracts are typically painless and can develop slowly, so sometimes a patient doesn’t even notice the changes for some time.

How are cataracts diagnosed?
An eye doctor such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist can identify cataracts during an eye exam. During a comprehensive eye examination your optometrist can look into the eye and see the crystalline lens. The cataract is visible within the lens as a cloudy white or yellow region. There could also be a reduction in visual acuity (blurry vision) or specific vision complaints related to the cataract. Keep in mind that many things can affect vision, so a thorough exam is important to check for other eye problems. Sometimes a mild cataract can be identified during a routine comprehensive eye exam before the patient actually becomes bothered by it.

What causes cataracts?
By far, the most common cause of cataracts is age. Other causes include trauma, diabetes, and congenital. Some risk factors for cataracts includes smoking, exposure to UV light, prior trauma or surgery, genetics, and steroid use.

What can be done to prevent cataracts?
We can reduce risk of getting cataracts by protecting our eyes from UV light (sunlight). This means using sunglasses when outside, or contact lenses that block UV light. If you work in an environment where there is an increased risk of trauma to the eyes, make sure to wear safety glasses. If you are a smoker, then stopping smoking will reduce risk. If you are diabetic, then good control of blood sugar is important. Eating a balanced and healthy diet can also help. There can be other factors specific to you, so make sure to get regular comprehensive eye check ups!

If I have cataracts, what can be done to fix it?
If the cataract is mild, it can often be monitored without intervention for years. However if the cataract progresses to a point that vision is very blurry or a person is bothered by it, then cataract surgery can be done to fix it. Cataract surgery is a very common procedure. In fact, it is the most common surgical procedure in all of medicine and amongst the most effective and successful.

How does cataract surgery work?
The cataract is a clouding of the crystalline lens that is inside the eye. It can not be “scraped off” or taken off with a laser. Instead, the crystalline lens containing the cataract needs to be removed, and replaced with an artificial lens. Usually this artificial lens is carefully chosen so that after surgery, a person becomes less reliant on eyeglasses (more on this in a future blog entry).

Early detection and prevention is always best! Book a visit with us today for a comprehensive eye exam.

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