June is Cataract Awareness Month. The Houston cataract surgeons at the Berkeley Eye Center would like to take some time to educate our patients about the importance of having their vision regularly checked for cataracts and other vision disorders. Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss in the U.S., affecting 24 million Americans over the age of 40, and they are the leading cause of blindness globally. Being informed and aware about the causes and signs of cataracts and how to treat them is the first step to protecting your vision.
What Is a Cataract?
A cataract is a medical condition in which the lens of the eye gradually becomes opaque, obscuring and blocking light from reaching the optic nerve. The result is cloudy, fuzzy vision. Cataracts can develop slowly or rapidly and often form in both eyes, although not necessarily at the same rate.
The longer cataracts are left untreated, the more difficult they may be to remove. If not treated in time, cataracts can eventually lead to blindness.
There are four types of cataracts: age-related, congenital, traumatic and secondary.
While cataracts are most common in older patients, young people and even newborns can be afflicted with cataracts.
What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts?
Cataracts don’t cause pain, redness or tears, and symptoms develop gradually. If you are experiencing any of the following problems, you may be developing a cataract:
- Cloudy, foggy or fuzzy vision
- You can see milky or yellowish spots on your pupils
- Severe glare from lamps, the sun or headlights at night
- Lights are too dim to read or do close up work
- Frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions, without improvement in vision
- Double vision and ghost images
- Difficulty performing daily tasks and activities due to vision problems
Are You at Risk?
The exact cause of cataracts is unknown. However, eye doctors have identified several possible risk factors for the disease. They include:
- Family history
- Long term exposure to UV radiation
- Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes
- Eye injuries
- Prenatal medical conditions
- Long term steroid use
If you fall into one of these risk categories, make sure you get your eyes examined regularly for signs of developing cataracts.
Can Cataracts Be Prevented?
While there is no way to prevent cataracts from developing, there are several things you can do to slow their development, such as:
- Don’t smoke
- Eat healthy
- Wear a hat and sunglasses while out in the Sun
- Avoid UV tanning beds and sunlamps
- Avoid steroid use if possible
- Keep your diabetes and other medical conditions under control
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you are experiencing changes in vision, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an ophthalmologist without delay. Your eye specialist will perform several tests, including a slit eye exam, retinal exam, refraction and visual acuity test to determine what the problem may be.
In many cases, people with cataracts can function normally with eyeglasses, contact lenses and other vision aids. Currently, surgery is the only way to remove cataracts.
Look into Getting a Comprehensive Eye Exam at the Berkeley Eye Center of Houston
While cataracts can’t be prevented, they can be treated. That’s why it is so important to have your eyes examined on a regular basis. An annual eye exam by an eye doctor can catch the problem in its early stages and recommend treatments to prevent and control cataract-related vision impairment and loss. If it’s been a while since you’ve had your eyes looked at, call the Berkeley Eye Center to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Houston eye doctors.