Just Focus For A Moment
Cataracts occur when the eye’s natural lens breaks down and can no longer focus light. This component, once a crucial step in sending clear images to the brain, no longer functions properly. The result is decreased vision which can lead to blindness if not taken care of.
A symptomatic approach
When the natural lens breaks down, a number of symptoms can occur. Most commonly, objects become cloudy or blurry and can be harder to make out. Cataracts are often gray or brown in color, which can cause images to look faded when reaching the brain. This change may also affect a person’s ability to see at night.
The disease can also intensify the glow from light sources, causing lamps, headlights, or the sun to appear too bright. In a similar vein, haloes can appear around lights, creating difficult-to-look-at glare. At times, cataracts can split images, causing the brain to see two of the same object.
What’s the risk?
Cataracts rarely appear overnight and can sometimes take years to reach maturity. That being said, several factors make individuals more susceptible to cataracts.
The leading cause of cataracts is nothing more than age. Individuals crossing the 60-year mark are more likely to develop cataracts as the lens struggles against the test of time. This number could drop lower as cataracts appear to form earlier than in previous generations. Typically, cataracts take several years to significantly impair vision from the first sign of formation. This is not always the case, as the disease can appear seemingly without warning.
Genetics can play a role in cataract formation as well. Family history can lead to congenital cataracts in newborns or hereditary cataracts much earlier in life than normal. Upwards of 40,000 children are born each year with at least one cataract preventing clear vision.
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body keeps blood sugar levels in check. With the condition, the pancreas is unable to keep blood sugar levels within a safe range. Excess blood sugar then begins appearing in places like the eye. Over time, high blood sugar can cause structural changes in the lens that accelerate cataract development. Diabetes can lead to a number of other issues in the eye and other parts of the body if not closely monitored.
Spending too much time outside without eye protection from the sun can also lead to cataract formation. The sun’s UV light can damage the protein-based material the lens is made of, causing failure earlier than normal.
Steroids, especially in eye drop form, can stimulate cataract growth on the back of the lens. This form of cataract usually forms quickly, resulting in faster treatment.
Previous eye surgery or injury
Patients who have experienced an injury to one or both eyes may also experience faster cataract formation. The trauma delivered to the area can disrupt lens fibers, bringing about cloudiness and difficulty seeing.
The adverse effects of smoking have also been linked to cataract formation. Smokers are actually two times more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers are. Those who choose to quit smoking may be able to reduce these risks.
All hope is not lost
If cataracts are becoming a problem, glasses may help for a time. At present, the only way to remove cataracts is through a surgical procedure. A surgeon will remove the cloudy lens, before inserting an artificial lens designed specifically for that eye. Regular eye exams are the best bet at catching cataracts before vision erodes. Fortunately, even the worst cataracts can usually be treated through surgery.