Cataracts are a super common eye condition. In fact, more than half of all Americans aged 80 or older have cataracts or have had cataract surgery. Cataracts typically develop after age 55 but can also affect younger patients so the odds are in favor of developing cataracts sometime in your lifetime. The good news though is that although cataracts cloud the lens of the eye, if diagnosed and managed early, cataracts can be treated to bring clarity to vision as well as preventing blindness.
Cataracts develop slowly as the protein in the lens of the eye breaks down due to natural aging eventually causing blurry or cloudy vision. The lens of the eye starts to look opaque instead of clear. Cataracts progress in stages but develop due to age, lifetime UV exposure, radiation, obesity, high blood pressure, genetic history, smoking, alcohol consumption, vitamin deficiencies, corticosteroid and other prescription medication usage, and some medical conditions such as diabetes. There are 3 main types of cataracts: nuclear (located at the center of the lens), cortical (located in the area around the nucleus or center), and posterior capsular (located at the back or outer layer of the lens). Other cataract types are congenital cataracts which are present at birth and trauma-induced cataracts that can form anywhere on the lens and often develop into a flower petal shape. Within these types of cataracts, there are 4 stages of cataract development: early cataract, immature cataract, mature cataract and hyper mature cataract.
Stage 1 and stage 2 cataracts begin to change vision but will likely take several years until it is necessary to change your eyeglass or contact prescription due to the formation of the cataract. In early cataract development, the lens is still clear but the ability to focus between near and far vision may become difficult. With stage 1 cataracts, early warning signs include mild blurring, increased eye strain, light sensitivity and glare from lights. With a stage 2 cataract, the lens becomes slightly opaque with continued blurred vision as well as dimmed vision and possibly double vision. In a stage 3 cataract, symptoms will be similar to stage 2 but more severe affecting quality of life and daily activities. In addition, the most noticeable change will be that the lens has changed in color from slightly clear or opaque to completely white or deep amber. At a stage 3 level cataract, patients will want to seek the advice of an ophthalmologist who will likely recommend cataract removal surgery. A stage 3 cataract will prompt most people to seek medical treatment to repair or restore vision. By stage 4 cataract development, significant blurring and loss of vision will occur as well as a hardening of the cataract making it more difficult to remove. If left untreated, hyper mature contacts can cause inflammation and with the increased pressure to the eye, patients can develop secondary glaucoma.
Early intervention is key to preserving vision but also to avoid the uncomfortable blurred vision and strain forced on the eyes. Rest assured if you develop cataracts and they progress to a stage 3 cataract, cataract surgery has a near 99% success rate.
If you suspect you may have cataracts or are interested in a comprehensive eye exam to check the health of your eyes for cataracts or other eye conditions, contact Rosenbaum Eye and Laser Center at 517-393-2020 or WEBSITE.