(courtesy Blindness Prevention America website)
TOPICS COURTESY PREVENTBLINDNESS.ORG
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. The lens of the eye is located behind the pupil and the colored iris, and is normally transparent. The lens helps to focus images onto the retina – which transmits the images to the brain. Your vision may become blurry or dim because the cataract stops light from properly passing through to your retina.
How common are Cataracts?
Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness among older adults in the United States. More than 20 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts. More than half of all Americans have cataracts by the time they are 80 years old. Cataracts can also sometimes be found in young people or even newborn babies.
Am I at risk for developing cataracts?
The exact cause of a cataract is unknown. Most often, a cataract is part of getting older. As you age, you are at greater risk of developing a cataract. There are also several possible risk factors for cataracts, such as:
-Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun
-Certain diseases, such as diabetes
-Inflammation in the eye
-Events before birth, such as German measles in the mother
-Long-term steroid use
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
Generally, a cataract does not cause pain, redness or tears. The following problems may indicate that you have a cataract:
You have blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, or the sense of a “film” over your eyes.
Lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work, or you are “dazzled” by strong light.
You change eyeglass prescriptions often and the change does not seem to help your vision.
You may also be able to see the cataract in your eye. It may look like a milky or yellowish spot in your pupil.
What treatments are available for cataracts?
The key to preventing vision loss is regular eye exams. If you are 65 or older, you should get a complete eye exam every one or two years, even if you have no problem seeing well. Be sure to ask your eye doctor for a dilated eye exam.