What Are They?
Cataracts are areas in the eye’s lens (which is normally transparent) that have become cloudy and more opaque. Completely painless and otherwise unnoticeable, these areas start to interfere with the light passing through, eventually causing vision problems. They will generally develop in both eyes, but not necessarily at the same time or rate.
Cataracts are generally natural and develop over time as we age, however they can also form from too much exposure to UV light or side-effects from medication. Cataracts can even be present at birth due to other complications.
Looking through cataracts can be like looking through a dirty window. Light is dimmed or tinted yellowish-brown, and areas of vision seem blurry and never seem to come into focus, even with a new updated prescription. Also, glare (like when driving at night) becomes intensified causing visual discomfort.
Cataracts occur naturally in humans as we age, so there is no way to prevent them. Generally by around 60 years old most have had cataracts. However, because the progression of cataracts is sped up in the presence of UV light, simply wearing sunglasses can help slow their development.
Treatment depends on how far the cataracts have progressed.
During the early stages, a simple tweak to the prescription is all that’s needed to return normal vision. However, if the cataracts are more developed and the vision cannot be corrected with conventional lenses, then the Optometrist may refer you to a surgeon to have the cataracts removed (a process which involves removing your lens and replacing it with an artificial one).
While many cataracts will develop to a point where surgery is required, not all do. A regular checkup with your Optometrist will help you understand your options.
The Take-home Message
Cataracts are a normal part of the human aging process that causes the vision to be increasingly clouded overtime. It is completely normal and can be dealt with by simply modifying the prescription or through a very routine surgery.
Image Credit: American Academy of Ophthamology