What is a Cataract?
A cataract is defined as a clouding of the natural lens of the eye.
The natural lens is about the size of an M&M candy and sits just behind the colored iris of the eye. When a person is born, the lens is clear. However with time, protein within the lens clumps together and starts to cloud. This clouding interferes with light passing through the eye, reducing the sharpness of the image reaching the retina. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it increasingly hard to see.
Most cataracts are a result of aging; however, there are other types that may occur at any time.
- Secondary cataract: Secondary cataracts can form after surgery for other eye problems such as glaucoma. They can also develop in people that have other health problems such as diabetes.
- Traumatic cataract: Traumatic cataracts can develop after an eye injury.
- Congenital cataract: Some babies are born with cataracts or develop them in childhood. These cataracts can be so small that they do not affect vision. If they do, cataracts surgery is needed.
Age-related cataracts affect vision in two ways. First, when the protein inside the lens clumps together and causes clouding, it reduces the light that reaches the retina. Initially the cataract is small and affects only a small part of the lens. At this point, there may be no changes in vision. As the cataract grows larger, seeing may become difficult and vision may get dull and blurry.
A cataract also causes the clear lens to slowly change to a yellowish/brownish color, adding a brownish tint to vision. At first the amount of tinting may be small and may not cause a problem with vision. Over time, increased tinting may make it more difficult to read and perform other routine activities. With advanced lens discoloration, a person may not be able to identify blues and purples.
The risk of cataracts increases with age. Other risk factors include certain diseases such as diabetes, smoking, and prolonged exposure to sunlight. Symptoms of this may include cloudy or blurry vision, colors that seem to be faded, glare from lamps or headlights, poor night vision, double vision, and frequent eyeglass prescription changes.
A cataract is detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. This exam will include visual acuity testing to see how well a person sees at various distances, an examination of the retina and optic nerve and tonometry to measure pressure inside the eye. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is recommended at least once every two years, and more often for those with diabetes and signs of other eye problems such as macular degeneration or glaucoma. Early treatment for many eye diseases increases the chance to save sight.
Wolfe Eye Clinic offers complete cataract treatment throughout Iowa, including Ames, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Iowa City, Marshalltown, Ottumwa, Spencer and Waterloo. Please contact Wolfe Eye Clinic at 1-800-542-7956 to ask any cataract-related questions or to schedule an appointment with one of our cataract specialists.