What is a Cataract?

If your vision has become blurred or cloudy lately and isn’t improving, then you may be one of the 22 million or more Americans suffering from cataracts. Cataract is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. However, it often develops slowly and is treatable, meaning that prompt diagnosis and action can help you to preserve your vision.

How cataracts harm your vision

Diagram of a cataract
What we see is determined by the way that our eyes process light. When we look at anything, light passes through the lens within the eye, which focuses the image and tells our brain what we are seeing. Cataract describes a condition whereby the natural lens of the eye becomes clouded, disrupting this process and causing our vision to appear blurred or dimmed.

Why do cataracts develop?

Cataracts tend to develop naturally with age. The lens of our eye is mostly made from water and protein. However, as we get older, some of that protein can begin to accumulate in small clumps, blocking the flow of light through the eye. These clumps are what form the cataract.

However, ageing isn’t the only cause of cataract. A number of external behaviors have been linked to their development, including:
  • Exposure to heat/radiation
  • Extensive exposure to UV light (such as using a sun bed without eye protection)
  • Eye injuries
  • Recurring eye infections
  • Specific medications such as steroids
  • Specific medical conditions such as diabetes
Excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and other hereditary factors could also put you at risk of developing cataracts.

Do cataracts affect both eyes?

Although it is possible to develop a cataract only in one eye, most patients find that they occur in both. However, the rate at which they grow may vary, meaning that you may find your vision is better in one eye than the other.

Symptoms of a cataract

Cloudy vision is the most commonly reported symptom of a cataract. However, there are some other symptoms that may become evident. These include:
  • Being dazzled by strong/bright light
  • Dimmed vision – it may appear as though it is always dusk, or like your eyes are only half open
  • Feeling like there is a film across your eyes
  • Seeing double
  • Your eye doctor regularly recommending that you change your prescription for eye glasses, but you fail to see a real benefit to the change
  • Your eye doctor may also be able to see a light-colored spot within your pupil

Prevention against cataracts

Age-related cataracts may not be completely preventable, but there are steps that you can take that may help to minimize your risk of developing them, as well as benefitting your overall health and wellbeing.

Eat Right – a healthy, balanced diet is the core component of a healthy body and mind. Research has also found that there are some foods that are particularly beneficial to maintain strong, clear vision. These include dark, leafy greens and brightly-colored fruit and vegetables, which contain powerful anti-oxidants that help to prevent oxidization and stress damage.

Less Alcohol – excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to affect the optic nerve and cause permanent changes to your vision. Cutting down can also help you to reduce your weight and improve your general health.

Stop smoking – everyone knows that smoking is bad for your body, and your eyes are no exception. Some studies have found patients who smoke are considerably more likely to develop cataracts in the future, and the longer they have smoked for, the greater their risk.

Wear sunglasses – UV light doesn’t just damage your skin, it can also have a serious impact on your eyes. Make sure you opt for high quality sunglasses that are marked as preventing 100% of UV rays, and remember that the risk doesn’t disappear when the sun does!

Visit your eye doctor regularly – a simple eye examination can detect cataracts and other vision problems. Regular check-ups by a qualified and experienced eye doctor will help keep your eyes healthy.

Dr. Michael Ahdoot and the team at Progressive Ophthalmology provide exceptional patient care for patients suffering from cataracts in Sunnyside, Queens, and the surrounding metropolitan New York City area. To find out more about cataracts, or to arrange a consultation with Dr. Michael Ahdoot, please contact our offices today at 718-565-2020.