Cataracts Prevention and Treatment

Almost everyone knows an older family member or friend who has had cataracts. But what are cataracts? Can you avoid them? How do you detect a cataract?

What is a cataract? What are the symptoms? A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that impairs vision. It can occur in one eye or both. A person with a cataract may notice that their vision has become blurred or duller. They may have trouble reading or identifying colors, in particular blues and purples. Their night vision may become compromised and light-sensitive; headlights or lamps may seem too bright or to have a halo or streaks radiating from them.

What is the role of the eye’s lens? The lens in the eye is critical to seeing well. It focuses light that enters the eye onto the retina at the back of the eye, creating an image that is sent to the brain. It also focuses the eye so you can see things far away or close up. Just like a camera with a smudged lens, if the eye’s lens is cloudy, the image quality will be poor.

The lens is made of proteins and water. The proteins are precisely arranged to let light pass through. With a cataract, some of the proteins bunch together and cloud part of the lens. The cloudy area increases over time, making it more difficult to see.

Who gets cataracts? How do I reduce my risk? Although most cataracts occur in older people, others can also experience this. Some children are born with small cataracts. Cataracts also can be caused by surgery, steroid use, exposure to radiation or an eye injury. Finally, some diseases such as diabetes can contribute to your chance of cataracts developing earlier.

You may be able to reduce your risk of a cataract. Avoid UV exposure by wearing sunglasses or regular clear glasses with a UV coating. Outdoors, wear a brimmed hat. Also, get good nutrition—in particular, green, leafy vegetables, fruit and other foods with antioxidants.

It’s also very important to receive regular, preventive eye care from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. A typical eye exam is painless and measures several factors. Your eye doctor will track your vision health over time, record changes and answer your questions.

How are cataracts treated? Nonsurgical treatments aim to improve vision as much as possible. These include maximizing glasses prescription and possibly adding a tint to reduce glare; choosing reading materials with a larger font;ensuring good lighting; and wearing a hat to cut glare.

Surgery may be recommended once the symptoms have progressed to a point that it interferes with your daily activities. The cloudy lens is replaced with a clear artificial lens called an intraocular lens.

The PacMed Optometry team can assess your eye health, and our Ophthalmology department offers cataract surgery. To see which of our providers currently do cataract surgery, please visit our Cataract Surgery page.