Changes in health can be very gradual. Weight gain, for example, seems to come on overnight when it actually takes weeks or months to put on those extra 10 or 20 pounds. Eye health is similar in that changes can be very gradual and unrecognizable at first. “You didn’t see that coming!” Getting cataracts is one condition that starts slowly and progressively worsens over time. It can take years to mature to point of clouded vision.
What is a cataract?
It is a cloudy area in the normally clear lens of the eye. Imagine the difference in looking through a very clean windshield versus a dirty windshield. The sun and street lights are harder on your eyes with the dirty windshield. Compare this to your eyes. When the lens is clouded by a cataract, light is scattered, and the lens cannot focus properly. This is what causes vision problems. Cataracts form naturally as you age, and other contributing factors include diabetes mellitus, some medications, smoking, alcohol use, nutritional deficiency, UV light, and trauma to the eye.
Can you prevent cataracts?
Cataracts cannot be prevented at this time; however, a few preventative measures will slow down the start and progression of the cataract. Some of these include decreasing or discontinuing smoking and alcohol use, reducing exposure to sunlight through UV-blocking lenses, and reversing the nutritional deficiency by eating leafy green vegetables and other antioxidant vegetables and nutritional supplements.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Because a cataract does not impair vision at the early stages, symptoms you can look for and tell your eye doctor about include halos around lights and increased difficulty seeing at night, reduced vibrancy in colors, increased sensitivity to light and the glare from lights, frequent changes in your glasses or contacts prescriptions, and blurred or double vision. An annual visit to your eye doctor can also help identify cataracts early on.
Treatment for Cataracts
If a cataract minimally affects your vision and lifestyle, treatment may not be needed. A change in prescription can provide temporary improvement in vision. It’s when the cataract progresses to the point of affecting a person’s everyday tasks that surgery may be needed.
Cataract surgery is performed by an Ophthalmologist on an outpatient basis. Small incisions allow removal of the cloudy natural lens, leaving only the outer shell of the lens, called the lens capsule. The lens capsule supports the lens implant which is a small artificial lens that is permanently placed into the eye to replace the original natural lens. It does not require cleaning or removal. Thorough instructions are discussed with patients undergoing cataract surgery, including a detailed eye drop schedule, to help make sure the eye heals properly.
Dr. Dvorak performs cataract surgery and other eye surgeries at Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood.