What Are Cataracts and Are They Treatable?

February 16th, 2018
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Don’t write off your increasingly blurry vision as merely a byproduct of the aging process — you could be developing cataracts.

A cataract is a clouding of an ocular lens. It’s caused by an accumulation of protein in the lens, leaving it opaque and preventing light from passing through it properly. While any and everybody is susceptible to developing cataracts, they’re most common in elderly patients.

The good news is that unlike some vision problems, cataracts can be easily treated with a simple, minimally invasive surgery. If left untreated, however, they can eventually lead to blindness. If you’re concerned that you may be at risk of that you’re currently developing cataracts, we’ll walk you through the most common causes and symptoms and outline some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

Causes and Symptoms

There are several different types of cataracts, each of which is caused by a different root condition. The most common cause is aging itself, but congenital disorders, chronic diseases, and trauma can all contribute to their development as well. In addition, smoking, drinking, excessive exposure to air pollution, and genetic predisposition can significantly increase a patient’s level of risk.

Cataracts can be further divided according to their particular effects on the eye. Subcapsular cataracts are defined by clouding at the back of the lens, while nuclear cataracts form in the central nucleus of the lens. In contrast, cortical cataracts are identified by small, opaque slivers that originate in the edges of the lens and work their way into its center near the nucleus.

Patients suffering from developing cataracts may notice unusually blurred vision and excessively bright light from natural and artificial sources, while colors may appear softer. Nuclear cataracts can also trigger a temporary improvement in sight before resulting in significant blurring, while subcapsular cataracts may not result in any symptoms until they’ve fully developed.

Treatment and Prevention

While cataracts can be debilitating, most patients can enjoy lasting relief from them with a specialized treatment plan. For patients suffering from cataracts in their early stages, the simplest solution is to rely on normal visual aids like strong glasses, magnifying glasses, and proper lighting, all of which can significantly counteract the effects of cataracts.

Should non-invasive treatments fail, more advanced cataracts can be treated with a simple and effective surgery. During this procedure, the surgeon replaces the affected lens with an artificial counterpart that resists future accumulations. Performed on more than three million Americans each year, cataract surgery helps more than 90% percent of patients regain 20/20 to 20/40 vision.

As with most medical conditions, the most effective treatment for cataracts is to prevent them from developing in the first place. Limiting exposure to sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light, wearing sunglasses whenever outdoors, and avoiding smoking can all greatly lower any patient’s likelihood of suffering from cataracts. Recent studies have also suggested that vitamin E, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk.

Cataracts are problematic, but they’re not untreatable. If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact a qualified eye specialist today and book a consultation to determine an appropriate course of treatment.

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