WHAT IS A CATARACT?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging although the term “age-related” is a little misleading. You don’t have to be a senior citizen to get this type of cataract. In fact, people can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s. But during middle age, most cataracts are small and do not affect vision. It is after age 60 that most cataracts reduce vision. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. A cataract can occur in either or both eyes. It cannot spread from one eye to the other but typically both eyes age over time.
At Pacific Northwest Eye Associates, we offer surgical services to correct cataracts at our Tacoma ambulatory surgery center. Contact us at 253-759-5555 to schedule an appointment for a consultation to see if cataracts are affecting your vision and affecting your quality of life.
WHAT IS THE LENS?
The lens is a clear part of the eye that helps to focus light, or an image, on the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the retina. Once it reaches the retina, light is changed into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred and your vision affected.
WHAT CAUSES CATARACTS?
The lens lies behind the iris and the pupil. It works much like a camera lens. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where an image is recorded. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is made of mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it.
As we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud and diminish the clarity of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.
Researchers suspect that there are several causes of cataract, such as smoking, exposure to sunlight, and diabetes. Or, it may be that the protein in the lens just changes from the wear and tear it takes over the years.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A CATARACT?
The most common symptoms of a cataract are:
- Cloudy or blurry vision.
- Colors become more faded.
- Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights.
- Poor night vision especially affecting the ability to drive.
- Double vision or multiple images in one eye.
- Frequent changes in your eyeglass or contact lens prescription.
- These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, call Pacific Northwest Eye Associates to schedule a comprehensive eye examination.
HOW IS A CATARACT TREATED?
The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is usually recommended as an effective treatment for this common problem. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. For more information about cataract surgery and to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, please click here.