A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil.  (The purpose of the lens is adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away.)  But the lens changes as we age, losing its flexibility, and eventually becomes cloudy.

Cataracts are caused by chemical changes that occur within the lens.  Although some people are born with cataracts, they are more common with age.  In fact, cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and are the principal cause of blindness in the world.

Some say, “If you live long enough, you’ll get cataracts.”  Besides increasing age, other risk factors for cataracts include diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive exposure to sunlight, family history of cataracts, high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking.  Cataracts can also be caused by eye injury, previous eye surgery, and long-term use of certain medications such as corticosteroids like prednisone.

Cataract Symptoms and Signs

Usually, a cataract starts out small and at first has little effect on your vision.  You may notice that your vision is blurred a little, like looking through a smoked glass.

A cataract may scatter light from the sun, indoor lighting, or headlights at night, making the light seem too bright or glaring.  Colors may appear duller, and not as bright as they once did.  Cataracts can also cause a shift in your eyeglass prescription.

Exposure to ultraviolet light seems to be associated with cataract development, so we recommend wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to reduce your exposure.

Also, several studies have suggested that eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and certain vitamins can reduced your risk of cataracts, and may slow their progression.

Cataract Treatment

When symptoms begin to appear, we may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses, strong bifocals, magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids.

We’ll discuss cataract surgery when your cataracts have progressed enough to seriously impair your vision and affect your daily life.  Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision.

How Cataract Surgery Works

Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision.  In fact, it is the most frequently performed surgery in theUnited States, and has the highest patient satisfaction rating of any medical procedure.

During surgery, the surgeon will remove your clouded lens and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL).

Cataract surgery is not without potential complications, however, such as infection.  But complications are rare, especially in the hands of an experienced cataract surgeon.  Also, men should be aware that certain prostate drugs can cause a specific type of complication during a cataract procedure, and should alert their cataract surgeon if they are taking medications for prostate.

If cataracts are blurring your vision, we can evaluate and advise you about various procedures and refer you to a surgical cataract specialist.  Cataract surgery usually changes your eyeglass prescription, so we’ll see you about six weeks after your surgery for a refraction to recheck your eyewear needs.

If you think you may have a cataract, please call our office at (307) 472-2020 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Alden to find out for sure.