Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55, but are often misunderstood by members of the general public.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55, but are often misunderstood by members of the general public. A cataract is not a “growth” but a clouding of the lens of the eye that hampers vision. While elderly people have a much greater risk of developing cataracts, younger people do suffer vision loss due to cataracts.
In most cases, the natural aging process causes cataracts. However, people who were exposed to excessive amounts of radiation or took a lot of prescription corticosteroids have a heightened risk of developing cataracts even before their 50s or 60s. People with diabetes, an illness of poorly regulated blood sugar levels, also are at greater risk of experiencing all types of visual disturbances including cataracts.
Typical symptoms of cataracts include the following:
Double vision in one eye.
Poor night vision.
A weakened ability to see or distinguish between different colors.
Fortunately, cataracts are easily treatable. An eye doctor or ophthalmologist can use a laser device to remove one or more cataracts. In most cases, general anesthesia or being “put to sleep” is not required. The ophthalmologist can use a local anesthetic to numb the eye and in some cases may also give a prescription sedative such as Valium to calm the patient.
Tiny incisions are used in most modern cataract surgeries. This technique minimizes the risk of infection or scarring, though no surgical procedure is ever entirely free of risk. Once any cataracts are removed, people generally experience even better vision than they did before developing this clouding of their eyes.