Cataracts are a common eye condition, and most cases develop over time due to aging. The lens of the eye is made up of water and proteins. As people grow older, changes to the proteins may take place. These changes involve the proteins sticking together, which leads to cataract formation. The lens of the eye then becomes clouded, and vision decreases.
Factors that may cause cataracts include diabetes, smoking and steroid use. Other forms of cataracts may also occur, including congenital cataracts and traumatic cataracts. Treatment may involve surgery, depending on how badly the cataracts impair a person’s vision or impact activities.
Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight may help to delay cataracts. If you smoke, stop. Researchers also believe good nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related cataract. They recommend eating green leafy vegetables, fruit, and other foods with antioxidants.
If you are age 60 or older, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataract, your eye care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders. Early treatment for many eye diseases may save your sight.
How Are Cataracts Treated?
An eye exam will be given to test how well you can see (remember to bring your glasses or wear your contacts to the appointment). Your doctor will also dilate your pupil in order to examine the condition of the lens and other parts of the eye.
If your vision can be corrected to an acceptable level with a change in prescription, eyeglasses, including bifocals or contacts, may be prescribed, eliminating the need for surgery at that time.
If your vision cannot be corrected with new glasses and cataracts interfere with your daily life, you may be a candidate for cataract surgery, which involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear, artificial one.
Cataract surgery is usually conducted on an outpatient basis and is very successful in restoring vision. It is the most frequently performed surgery in the U.S., with more than 1.5 million cataract surgeries done each year. More than 90 percent of the people who have cataract surgery have improvement in vision.