The eye’s natural crystalline lens helps us focus on people and things at varying distances.
Unfortunately, as we grow older this lens often stiffens and hardens, and without its youthful suppleness, it loses its ability to focus, creating vision problems. This condition — for most, a natural consequence of aging — is called presbyopia.
As we age, these changes occurring to the natural crystalline lens can lead to the development of cataracts or a loss in clarity of the lens. Since the lens is no longer as flexible or as clear as it used to be, the eye can’t focus on light properly.
At first, symptoms may be undetectable or very slight. However, any noticeable change in vision may be a cause for concern and should be brought to the attention of an eye care professional. Common symptoms of cataracts include:
- Cloudy or blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Frequent prescription changes for glasses or contact lenses
- Poor night vision
- Color vision changes and dimming
- Double vision in a single eye
While there is no way to prevent cataracts, there are things you can do to slow their formation. Modifiable factors that increase the risk of cataract include smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and excessive alcohol intake. You may also slow the formation of cataracts by protecting your eyes from direct sunlight.
In the beginning stages of cataracts, vision may be slightly improved using forms of visual correction. However, in the later stages, surgery may be required. Fortunately, surgery has proven to be extremely successful in the removal of cataracts. During cataract surgery, your physician will replace your natural lens with an intraocular lens implant.
There is no proven way to prevent cataracts. But certain lifestyle habits may help slow cataract development. These include:
- Not smoking.
- Wearing a hat or sunglasses when you are in the sun.
- Avoiding sunlamps and tanning booths.
- Eating healthy food.
- Avoiding the use of steroid medicines when possible (some people need them).
- Keeping diabetes under control.
RISKS – IF LEFT UNTREATED
If left untreated, cataracts cause continual loss of vision, eventually leading to legal blindness or even total blindness. In the case of blindness caused by cataracts, vision usually can be successfully restored with cataract surgery and implantation of an intraocular lens (IOL).