When we look people in the eyes, we tend to immediately notice their eye color. But have you ever noticed someone with a cloudy or hazy look in their eyes? It could be cataracts.
When light rays enter the eye, they pass through the pupil and into the lens. The eye’s natural lens bends the light in order to focus the objects you’re looking at onto the retina. Once the image reaches the retina, it passes through the optic nerve to the brain which processes the image.
A cataract is a buildup of protein on the lens that can cause it to look cloudy. This keeps light from properly passing through the eye’s lens, resulting in partial loss of vision. According to Prevent Blindness America, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world and affect more than 24 million Americans over the age of 40. However, cataracts can also occur in young adults and children.
Not all cataracts are the same. The different types of cataracts include:
It isn’t known for sure why the eye’s lens changes with age, but there are several factors that may cause cataracts:
In the early stages of developing a cataract, people usually don’t need surgery. Non-surgical methods like wearing sunglasses to reduce glare or having better reading light usually alleviate symptoms.
However, cataract surgery is needed if the cataract keeps someone from performing necessary activities like reading or driving. This surgery is fairly common with more than 2 million Americans undergoing the procedure every year. Typically it is an outpatient surgery using local anesthesia and doesn’t require an overnight hospital stay. During the cataract surgery, a high-frequency ultrasound probe will break up the cloudy lens. The small pieces of cloudy lens will then be gently removed using suction. This type of surgery needs smaller incisions which reduces the risk of cataract surgery complications.
If you think you are at risk for cataracts, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor.