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A cataract is a cloudy area in the normally clear lens of the eye. The lens is a tissue located behind the pupil that is responsible for focusing light onto the retina (back of the eye). A cataract usually forms as you get older. As a cataract grows and clouds more of the lens you may find that performing normal tasks, such as reading and driving, become more difficult. Symptoms of cataracts can include:
1. Vision that is cloudy, blurry, foggy or filmy.
2. Sudden nearsightedness or sudden improvement in close up vision.
3. Changes in the way you see color, especially yellow.
4. Problems driving at night because oncoming headlights are distracting.
5. Double vision
WHAT CAUSES IT?
Cataracts occur when there is a buildup of protein in the lens, which makes the lens cloudy. No one knows what causes the buildup of protein, although research indicates that exposure of ultraviolet (UV) light, diet, smoking, consume large amounts of alcohol, and exposure to air pollution may be factors. The most common type of cataracts occur as we age. There are also cataracts that develop in babies (congenital cataracts), cataracts that occur as a result of disease (diabetes, for example), taking certain medications or exposure to a toxic substance, and cataracts that form after an injury to the eye.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Cataracts that occur are removed during surgery. Cataract surgery is the most common operation performed in the U.S., and is considered one of the safest. Nearly 98% of all cataract surgeries are completed each year without serious complications. During cataract surgery, the surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a plastic lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). The IOLs implanted today usually provide very good vision. After cataract surgery is completed, you are likely to be less dependent on glasses to see well. Cataract surgery is usually performed under local anesthesia in an outpatient operating room, so you don't have to stay in the hospital. Surgeons usually don't remove cataracts in both eyes at the same time. You will be scheduled for separate surgeries.
IS THERE A CURE?
Cataract surgery cures this disorder by removing the cataract. However, experts are studying ways to prevent cataracts so that surgery does not have to be performed in so many people. It is estimated that if the progression of cataracts could be delayed by 10 years, the number of surgeries would decrease by nearly half.
WHAT CAN I DO?
1. After the age of 40, come in for regular eye examinations so we can assess the formation of cataracts.
2. Contact us if you notice sudden changes in distance or near vision, difficulty driving at night, or double vision.
3. Protect your eyes from UV rays by always wearing sunglasses when you are outdoors, or wearing photochromic lenses that darken in sunlight. Polycarbonate lenses have built-in UV protection, and are recommended for children.
4. Eat large amounts of kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, yellow corn, persimmons, and tangerines, or take ocular vitamins recommended by our office.
5. If you smoke, quit smoking. Speak to your family physician about a smoking cessation program.
6. Limit alcohol intake to one to two drinks per day.
7. Have cataract surgery when it is recommended by your doctor.