Don’t Go Chasing Cataracts

The eye is the brain’s visual pathway to the outside world. Light must pass cleanly through the eye before coming to rest on the nerve system that transports data onward. Cataracts are an ocular disease that causes the eye’s lens to harden and lose clarity over time. Without a well-functioning lens, images sent to the brain become harder to process.

Is there a problem here?

As the lens ages, layers of protein begin to break down inside or on the surface. This shift turns a once transparent object cloudy and brings a myriad of problems. Most noticeable is the onset of blurry vision that glasses can’t treat. Individuals also experience sensitivity to bright lights, difficulty seeing at night, or double vision. This raises the question: when do cataracts typically first appear?

So it begins

The probability of cataracts forming increases alongside age. The disease is incredibly rare in patients under 40 years old but not unheard of. Most likely, cataracts will begin to take shape closer to age 40 as the lens first starts to harden. Shifts in vision prompt new reading glasses or bifocals as the lens struggles to accommodate light from multiple distances. While the lens may start to lose clarity, this event typically happens a bit later in life.

Running out of time

As time presses on, protein layers continue to break down, causing the lens to lose effectiveness. The lens has no way to repair this protein and will only continue to worsen over time. By age 60 or 70, symptoms of cataracts are more commonplace in all areas of sight. Routine eye exams from this point on are useful for monitoring the stages of cataract growth.

Don’t give cataracts a reason to grow

As expected, age is the leading factor of cataract formation in the world today. However, other considerations can expedite growth in one or both eyes such as exposure to sunlight over a long period of time, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, traumatic injury to the eye, previous eye surgery, long-term use of steroid medications, excessive long-term alcohol use, and smoking. Individuals with any of these conditions may see cataracts form and worsen over a much shorter timeframe than usual.

Give cataracts the treatment

Any breakdown of proteins in the lens caused by cataracts cannot be repaired by the human body or medications. Changes to an eyeglass prescription can curb the issue for a time, but cataracts will only continue to worsen. At present, the only way to treat the disease is through surgery.

During the procedure, an ophthalmologist uses a small incision to remove the cataractous lens. The physician then places an artificial lens inside the eye that functions much the same way the natural lens did.

Is it time to go?

Cataracts are best removed when a patient’s vision even with glasses is still blurry. Frequent visits to an eye doctor will help determine when the time is right. Vision affected by cataracts can cause serious risks when performing daily tasks and should not be left untreated.