Understanding Cataracts: Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

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Understanding Cataracts: Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors


Understanding Cataracts: Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors


Understanding Cataracts: Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

A cataract is a thin film that forms over the eye, causing the lens to become foggy. The light must pass through a clear lens for the eye to see. The lens is behind the colored part of the eye (iris) whose function is to focus light. It allows the brain and eye to effectively process the information into an image. When a cataract forms, the lens cannot focus light properly, causing blurry vision. 


Causes of Cataracts

The eye lens consists of water and proteins. Proteins break down naturally with time, but they remain in the eye. The built-up protein deposits make the lens cloudy, making it hard to see well. Some factors can increase the formation of cataracts. These include diabetes, using steroids, various drugs, and eye injuries or surgery. 

Prolonged exposure to sunlight without eye protection can increase the risk of developing cataracts. Radiation treatment can also quicken the formation of cataracts. 


Symptoms of Cataracts


Cataracts start small in the early stages but grow over time to affect vision. Symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Cloudy, blurry, filmy, or foggy vision

  • Increased sensitivity to bright lights

  • Glare, or seeing halos around lights

  • Difficulty with night vision

  • Sudden myopia or lens prescription changes

  • Need for brighter lighting

  • Double vision

  • Changes in color vision

Cataracts are not painful but can affect an individual’s quality of life. If you notice changes in your vision, contact your eye doctor.


Risk Factors for Cataracts 


Anyone can get cataracts, but they usually begin forming around age 40. They are common among the elderly; most people notice symptoms after age 60. In very few cases, babies may be born with cataracts as a birth defect. 

Individuals likely to develop cataracts are those who smoke, heavy alcohol drinkers, and people who live in areas with high air pollution. You are more likely to develop cataracts if someone in your family has them. Other risk factors are diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and previous eye surgery or injury. 


Diagnosing Cataracts

An eye doctor can diagnose cataracts during a comprehensive eye exam. During the exam, the doctor may need to dilate the pupils to see the inner eye. Special eye drops dilate the back of the eye, allowing the doctor to check eye health. The doctor can see how much of the vision is blocked. They can detect cataracts and other eye issues. 


Treating Cataracts


When cataracts are mild, changing the lens or prescription can help improve the patient’s vision. Cataracts often worsen over time, affecting the ability to work and perform daily activities. Eventually, your ophthalmologist may recommend surgery to remove cataracts if you experience significant vision loss. 

The surgery is simple and effective and can help treat other age-related eye conditions affecting the retina. Surgery involves removing and replacing the cloudy lens with an artificial lens (IOL). You can develop cataracts in both eyes, but one eye may develop later or worsen. 

For more on understanding cataracts, causes, symptoms, and risk factors, visit North Georgia Eye Care at our office in Winder, Georgia. Call (770) 867-1913 to book an appointment today.

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