Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness.
In the US alone, they affect over 20 million adults over the age of forty and half of seniors aged eighty and up. Babies are sometimes born with congenital cataracts and require surgery so that their vision can develop normally.
How Do Cataracts Form?
What causes that milky white effect that blocks vision? In a healthy eye, our lenses are filled with proteins that line up in such a way that they are perfectly transparent. However, over time, they can clump together and become opaque, creating a cataract. Even if the rest of the eye is completely healthy, a cataract can block some or all of the light from reaching the retina.
What Are The Symptoms Of Cataracts?
Cataracts can start out small and subtle, so it’s not always obvious that they’re developing. Over time, you may begin to notice the following symptoms:
- Reduced night vision
- Light sensitivity and increased glare
- Halo effect around lights
- Dim, cloudy, or blurry vision
- More frequent glasses prescription changes
- Faded or yellowed colors
- Double vision in a single eye
Cataract Risk Factors
The main risk factor for cataracts is advancing age, but other factors can make them more likely — and more likely to develop earlier. These include diabetes, smoking, a family history of cataracts, exposure to UV radiation over time, high blood pressure, previous inflammation or injury in an eye, previous eye surgery, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and prolonged use of corticosteroid medication.
The Good News: Cataracts Are Treatable
In the early stages, cataract symptoms can be combated with a stronger glasses prescription, but eventually, glasses or contacts won’t be enough. Luckily, cataract surgery is performed more often than any other surgery in the US. It’s low-risk, simple, and routine, involving one short procedure on each eye. Even better, if you have other vision problems like astigmatism, cataract surgery might fix that too!