Introduction to Cataracts
What is a Cataract?
Many people believe a cataract is a growth within the eye. Rather, it is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens that occurs as we age. Our natural lens focuses images onto the back of the eye so we can see clearly, much like the lens of a camera focusing images onto film for a clear picture. When we’re born, this lens is clear, but as we age it yellows, hardens and eventually becomes cloudy due to layers of protein that gradually build up on the lens. This cloudy lens is referred to as a cataract.
Cataracts obstruct vision. The deterioration in vision is usually gradual, and initially stronger lighting or new glasses may lessen vision problems caused by this clouding. But the cataract will continue to worsen, until vision is significantly impaired. Cataracts can cause blindness if left untreated. Once a cataract develops, surgery is the only way to improve vision. But cataract surgery is nothing to fear. Cataract surgery, today, is a very safe, simple and effective procedure that restores vision.
What Causes Cataracts?
Most cataracts are caused by aging. In fact, more than half of all Americans, age 65 and older, have a cataract and virtually everyone will have them removed and replaced with lens implants if they live long enough.
Cataracts can also form as a result of injury to the eye or as a complication from glaucoma or diabetes. In rare cases, cataracts may even be present at birth.
Age-related cataracts generally become noticeable as you reach your early 60s. As the lens becomes cloudier, vision becomes more blurred, but because cataracts start small and develop slowly, most people are not even aware of the gradual deterioration in their vision. Symptoms that could indicate the presence of a cataract include:
- Faded or dull colors. Most noticeable is that nothing appears truly white any longer, with colors having a yellowish tint.
- Problems with glare, especially at night from lights and oncoming car headlights.
- Sensitivity to light, from a lamp or sunlight.
- Halos or starbursts around lights and street signs at night.
- Difficulty reading in low light, requiring brighter and brighter light.
- Blurred or double vision.
- A feeling that your prescription is rapidly changing. For example, you notice it is easier to read up close that it has been for several years.
Removal of the cloudy lens is the only way to treat a cataract. You should consider surgery when cataracts cause enough vision loss to interfere with your daily activities. The cloudy lens will be replaced by an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). Until recently all IOL’s provided one vision range – usually targeted for distance tasks. This meant most patients still required glasses for mid- and near-tasks after cataract surgery. However, today there are many replacement lens implants available that provide a fuller range of vision without glasses, and others that correct astigmatism in one step. Dr. Loeffler will consider your unique eye anatomy during your Lens Evaluation, and help you decide which lens is best for you based on your individual needs and lifestyle.
Want to learn more? Call our office, located in Lighthouse Point, and serving the greater Pompano Beach, Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach & Ft. Lauderdale areas.