Having cataracts doesn’t always mean you have to have surgery to remove them, although each year, approximately 10 million people around the world do. Cataracts typically evolve slowly, and over time, they can negatively affect your life.
What causes cataracts? How do you know when it’s time to see your doctor? Is cataract surgery the right option for you? We have the answers that will help you better understand the condition known as cataracts and when—or if—you should have them removed.
Cataracts cloud the normally clear lenses of your eyes so that it’s like looking through a dirty, hazy window. As the cataract progresses and obscures your vision, it makes simple tasks, like reading a book or driving a car almost impossible.
Cataracts are a progressive disease, so early on, the obstruction to the lens of your eye may not even be noticeable. But over time, you’ll notice a darkening of your vision. Some of the typical symptoms of a progressing cataract include:
- Blurred or cloudy vision
- Colors fading or yellowing
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Double vision in one of your eyes
- Frequent upgrades to your prescription eyeglasses or contacts
- Light or glare sensitivity
- Need for progressively brighter light for reading
- Seeing halos around lights
People that have cataracts may have some or all of these symptoms. What causes cataracts to form and when is it time to see your doctor?
People over 40 can have age-related cataracts. As the proteins in the eye age, they may clump together to form cataracts. Over time, these deposits prevent the light from passing through the front of your eye, which obscures your ability to process images.
You may also develop a cataract from some kind of trauma to the eye. Electric shock, chemical burns, or a blunt, penetrating trauma can cause cataracts. Patients who undergo chemotherapy radiation are also at a higher risk of developing cataracts.
High blood pressure can also lead to cataracts, as well as macular degeneration and glaucoma. Individuals experiencing chronic diabetes are more prone to developing cataracts in one or both eyes. This is because the liquid that lubricates the eyes, called the aqueous humor, can develop a high level of sugar when the diabetic patient cannot control their glucose levels.
There are also lifestyle choices, such as heavy alcohol consumption or excessive smoking, that can lead to cataracts.