Getting diagnosed with cataracts is often a normal part of aging. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute, more than half of Americans age 80 and older have had cataracts or have undergone cataract surgery. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with cataracts, you’re not alone. Here at Art of Optiks, we are experienced in ocular disease management and can help you learn all you need to know about diagnosis, treatment options, and surgery.
Cataracts can develop in one or both eyes and affect your vision. The lens of your eye consists of clear tissue that focuses light on the retina. Your retina is a layer of nerve cells that line the inside backing of your eyes. Cataracts cloud the eye lens, making it difficult for light to enter and communicate signals to the brain. Individuals who have cataracts describe it as looking through a foggy window. Clouded vision can make it challenging to do regular day-to-day activities, like drive and read.
Cataracts typically develop slowly over time as someone ages, but you can also get cataracts after an eye injury, surgery, or if your family has a history of cataracts. Usually, there aren’t any significant hindrances in the early stages. However, as cataracts progress and transform, vision will become cloudy, and stronger lighting and glasses may be required to complete daily tasks. Cataract surgery is an advanced eye care treatment that’s safe, effective, and provides long-lasting results.
How Do Cataracts Develop?
Your eye lenses are primarily made up of protein and water. The protein arranges itself in a way that keeps the lens clear so that your eyes can focus the light that enters in and produce clear images. As you get older, the lens tissue breaks down, and proteins may begin to clump together. This results in thicker lenses with spotty, cloudy areas of vision. As the cataract develops, the cloudy spot gets bigger and takes over more of the lens. At this point, it’s more difficult for light to pass through the clouding to reach your retina and produce sharp images. Your vision gets blurry, almost as if you were looking through a frosted or foggy window.
Both eyes can develop cataracts, but this typically doesn’t co-occur, resulting in uneven vision. Aside from older age, other factors can increase your chances of developing cataracts, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Family history of cataracts
- Exposure to excessive amounts of sun
- Living in higher altitudes
- Smoking and drinking in excess
- Eye injuries or inflammation
- Eye surgery
- Radiation treatment on the upper body
- Long-term steroid use
Some are born with cataracts, while others develop them during childhood. Cataracts of this type are called congenital cataracts and may be due to genetics, trauma, or infection. Some of the medical conditions that lead to congenital cataracts include:
- Herpes simplex virus
- Muscular dystrophy
- Neurofibromatosis Type 2
Congenital and non-congenital cataracts almost always affect your vision at some point. The vision changes won’t go away on their own, so surgery is usually recommended after a doctor’s cataracts diagnosis.
How Can I Tell if I Have Cataracts?
The most common symptom of cataracts is blurred vision. At first, it may only be a small area, but it grows and becomes more clouded as time goes on. If images start looking dull, faded, or blurry, you may have cataracts. You might notice color changes and have problems picking out specific colors, especially blue and purple. Everything may take on a yellow or brown tint. Cloudy vision and color changes are only a couple of the most common symptoms. Other cataract symptoms include:
- Decreased night vision
- Sensitivity to artificial and natural light
- Halos appearing around lights
- Double vision in one or both eyes
- Glasses or contact prescription frequently needs changing
- Vision loss
Other eye problems can cause these symptoms, making it vital to talk to your eye care provider if you notice changes to your vision.
How Will I Be Treated for Cataracts?
There are no medications that slow down cataract development or reverse vision damage because of cataracts. The only way to reverse cataract damage is through cataracts surgery. During surgery, the doctor replaces your old lens with an artificial one. When and if you decide to have surgery, your overall health daily activity interference should be considered. If you are still driving, read without issues, and perform everyday tasks at an acceptable level, waiting to have surgery is an option.
How long you wait for surgery generally doesn’t affect how well your vision recovers afterward since the operation involves completely replacing the lens. There are a few ways you can slow cataract development and steps you can take to adapt to living with cataracts, should they appear.
- Wear sunglasses or glasses that protect from UV rays and digital eye strain
- Wear glasses or contacts that are up-to-date
- Use brighter lighting and magnifying devices to help you read and perform other activities
You can also prevent cataracts by managing health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. Additionally, you should wear UV blocking sunglasses, follow a healthy diet, quit smoking, and only drink minimal amounts of alcohol.
What Is the Recovery Time for Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery is a quick, safe, and effective means of getting your vision back to normal. It is an in-and-out procedure and can take as little as twenty minutes. Although you won’t have to stay at the hospital overnight, you will need someone to drive you home. Cataract surgery aftercare is also important to ensure you recover correctly. If you have cataracts in the left and right eye and want to have surgery on both, the doctor will likely schedule you for two separate surgeries. A week or two between surgeries gives your first eye a chance to heal. You should recover from cataract surgery after eight weeks. It’s possible you may still need to wear glasses after surgery, but about 90% of people who undergo surgery see a huge difference in visual quality.
What About Aftercare?
After surgery, your doctor will probably suggest you wear an eye shield for the first week to help it heal. The doctor will also give you eye drops to prevent infection. It’s best to take it easy for a few days after surgery and avoid bending over, putting pressure on your eye(s), and driving. Cataract surgery rarely presents side effects, but your eye(s) may feel sore or itchy for a few days. You may also feel some tearing or sensitivity to light. Other side effects, although rare, include:
- Eye infection
- Droopy eyelid
- Eye pressure
- Detached retinal
If you notice any of these effects, you’re in too much pain, or you feel like your eye(s) isn’t healing correctly, it’s recommended to tell your eye doctor as soon as possible.
Contact Your Eye Care Provider Today
Blurred, cloudy vision that starts as a small spot and grows outward is concerning for anyone who experiences it. No one wants to go throughout their day looking through a foggy window. If you’ve noticed a dull cloud forming over one or both of your eyes, you may have cataracts and need to visit your eye doctor as soon as possible. A cataract diagnosis can be alarming, but the award-winning doctors at Art of Optiks are here for you every step of the way. We’ll help you understand treatment options, like cataract surgery. Before you know it, your vision will be improved, and you’ll be back to your regular day-to-day activities.