Cataract Awareness:
Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

With the aging of our population and with people living longer the incidence of general health problems is increasing. Simultaneously, as our bodies age so do our eyes and patients 65 and older are more susceptible to cataracts. In this month's column, I want to briefly discuss what a cataract is, some of the symptoms associated with cataracts and what the most common treatment options are.

The human eye focuses light through a clear lens onto the back of the eye, the retina. Just as in a camera a clear lens focuses light to form a clear image. Any disruption of the camera lens' clarity results in a blurry image. A cataract is a clouding of the lens within the eye. This clouding leads to a decrease in vision. Over time, the clear transparent lens changes to a yellowish/brownish color. This browning of the lens obstructs light from passing through the normally clear lens being focused on the retina or back of the eye. Cataracts can form as part of the normal aging process and can occur in one or both eyes. In some cases, cataracts can be caused from trauma or the prolonged use of steroidal drugs.

Some of the common symptoms seen with cataracts are a loss in crispness of vision. When driving at night, glare from oncoming headlights or street lamps become more challenging to manage. Also, difficulty in reading and changes in contrast are commonly seen in the early stages of cataract formation. With advancing cataracts, patients can experience difficult in discerning the brightness of colors. The ability to recognize faces becomes more difficult as well. In very advance cataracts, complete loss of sight occurs due to the complete blockage of light entering the eye.

The best way to diagnose a cataract is through an annual eye health evaluation, especially if you are over the age of 40. If you have been diagnosed with cataracts, your eye doctor will discuss its effect on your vision and if surgery is recommended. In some cases, receiving a new spectacle prescription will help improve sight. Certain eyeglass tints and anti-glare lenses will also improve sight. In advanced cases, a referral to an Ophthalmologist for surgery is routinely done and is the best option to restore vision. Your eye doctor will help you determine the best option based on your comprehensive eye exam.

Routine, yearly eye examinations with your eye doctor are essential in detecting cataracts and other ocular and systemic diseases. Regardless of your age, a routine check of your ocular health is essential for a life time of clear and healthy vision.

Nothing on this web site is intended, nor should it be construed, as professional advice. Those reviewing the information should consult with a qualified professional.