Know the basics
What is cataracts?
A cataract is and eye condition that causes the lens of the eye to be cloudy. For a person with cataracts, it feels like looking through a foggy window. Most cataracts usually develop slowly and may not be bothersome during the early periods. But over time, cataracts can interfere with the eyesight and make it more difficult to drive, read and manage your daily routine activities.
How common is cataracts?
Cataract is a common eye condition that usually affects both men and women over 80 years old. You can reduce your chances of getting cataract by managing your risk factors. Discuss with you doctor for more information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Cataract can occur in one eye or both eyes but cannot spread from one eye to the other. Some other signs and symptoms may include:
- Blurry vision;
- Colors that seem faded;
- A bright glare when you look at headlights, sunlight, or lamps. You may see a halo around these lights;
- Double vision;
- Poor night vision;
- And frequent changes in your eye prescription.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Any signs or symptoms listed above that becomes bothersome or worsens;
- When symptoms are interfering with your daily routine;
- Or when you feel pain in your eyes.
Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes cataracts?
The cause of most cataracts is aging or injury that changes the eye tissues. Age-related cataracts may develop in two ways.
- Protein clumps develop on the lens. This causes images to be less sharp and defined.
- The clear lens slowly changes color and turn yellow-brown. This causes a yellow brown tint.
The lens of the eye is made up of mostly water and protein. As you age, the lens becomes thicker and less flexible. This causes protein clumps and reduces the light from reaching your retina, which is the light-sensitive layer that is located in the back of your inner eye. This causes the vision to become blurry and dull.
Discoloration of the lens may start as a mild yellow-brown tint but will worsen over time. You may not be able to distinguish the color blue or purple.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for cataracts?
There are many risk factors for cataracts, such as:
- Age: Your risk for cataracts will increase as you get older.
- Family history: If you have family history of cataracts your chances of having cataracts is higher.
- Having injury to the eye or eye surgery.
- Alcohol or smoking.
- Other diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity.
- Exposure to prolonged sunlight.
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is cataracts diagnosed?
To determine a proper diagnosis, your doctor will evaluate your medical history and perform a comprehensive eye exam. You will be referred to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist), who will perform more tests to determine cataracts.
How is cataracts treated?
Treatment is usually not needed if your vision is not impaired. As your vision worsens and you can no longer perform your daily routine activities, the only treatment is surgery.
Cataract surgery is generally safe and may not require hospital stay. There are 2 types of surgery.
- Small-incision surgery cataract surgery (phacoeulsification). This involves a small incision on the side of the cornea. The doctor emits ultrasound waves that break down the lens to be removed by suction.
- Extra capsular surgery requires a longer incision to remove the cloudy core of the lens. The rest of the lens is removed by suction.
During both types of surgery, an artificial lens called an intraocular lens replaces the natural lens. The surgery usually lasts 1 hour and is painless. The doctor will use eye drops to numb the eye and you will be awake the whole time.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cataracts?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cataracts:
- See your doctor right away if your vision is interfering with your daily activities.
- Get your eyes checked regularly with your optometrist.
- Protect your eyes from injury and prolonged sunlight. Wear sunglasses that block 100% from both forms of ultraviolet light, UVA and UVB, especially during sunny climates.
- Keep your blood sugar (glucose) level well controlled if you have diabetes. Cataracts grow faster when the blood sugar level is high.
- Improve your lighting at home.
- Use a magnifying glass to read.
- Limit your night driving.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print version. page 713
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Page 1445
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017