Cataracts 101

You may have heard that you are more likely to get cataracts as you age. In this article, we want to explain more about cataracts and help take some of the mystery away from this very common eye problem. Of course, nothing replaces a visit to a health professional, so call us today to make an appointment for a personalized assessment.

What is a cataract?

In simple terms, cataracts are a cloudiness in the lens of the eyes that can make it difficult to see clearly. Cataracts are usually a part of the aging process, and by the age of eighty, nearly half of American have developed at least one cataract. Cataracts can develop in one eye or both eyes; the condition is not contagious, and it does not spread from one eye to the other eye.

Anatomy of the eye

Each eye has a lens, which is the clear part that helps the eye to focus on the retina so light or an image can be seen. The retina is sensitive to light and is located in the back of the eye.

Before cataracts occur, light can easily go through the clear lens to the retina, and that light is then transmitted into nerve signals, which are sent to the brain. However, if the lens is not clear, which is the case with cataracts, the image will not be clear. This usually happens over a period of time so the average person who is slowly developing cataracts will not notice the change right away. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that their vision problem is not their prescription but cataracts that have slowly built up within the lens of the eye.

Why do people get cataracts?

The lens of the eye sits behind the pupil and iris, and it operates similarly to the lens of a camera. As light is focused on the retina, the image is recorded. Also, the lens helps with focus so vision is clear both close and at a distance.

The lens is comprised of mostly protein and water, and they allow the lens to stay clear, allowing light to pass through, which is necessary for vision. As people get older, however, the protein has a tendency to start clumping together, which forms cloudy areas in the lens. As the clumps enlarge in size and more clumps develop, a person’s vision becomes compromised, and it becomes more difficult to see. This is often when someone will visit their eye doctor, and he or she will be diagnosed with one or two cataracts.

Some researchers say that while aging is the main cause of cataracts, smoking and diabetes have been linked to the development of cataracts. Another explanation is that the composition of the individual body will likely dictate when and if the protein within the lens of the eyes will coagulate and create the cloudiness of cataracts.

Treatment for cataracts

If you find cataracts early, you can do some simple things to help such as get a new prescription for your glasses, use brighter lights, use a magnifying lens, and/or purchase anti-glare sunglasses. Besides these simple solutions, surgery is the most common and most effective treatment.

Many people hesitate, not knowing the best time to have cataract surgery – should they go for it or wait a little longer? First of all, if you have cataracts, your eyes will not clear up in time. Time will not help, and your cataracts will usually continue to worsen. Next, you should likely wait until you notice that you are having problems with everyday tasks such as watching TV, driving, or reading. Your eye doctor here at Northern Vision can help you make that important decision.

Contact Northern Vision Eye Care in Traverse City, MI

If you are wondering if you have cataracts, schedule an appointment today with Northern Vision Eye Care. Located in Traverse City, we will assess the condition of your eyes and talk with you about your options. Call today!

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