More than hearing, smelling, feeling, or tasting, seeing is the human sense that we rely on most. Unfortunately, our eyes are susceptible to deterioration caused by genetics, lifestyle choices, and age, and some of us start off with a vision problem from an early age. For those of us fortunate enough to make it to our later years, cataracts are of primary concern. But what are cataracts? What are the signs and symptoms? And how can cataracts be treated or removed?
At UAB Medical West, our team of highly-trained ophthalmologists can help you with vision problems from A to Z. Today, we’ll review some basics about cataracts so that you can spot this ailment in yourself or your aging loved ones.
What are Cataracts?
If you can remember back to your school days, you might recall that the eye is made up of an iris, pupil, cornea, and—most importantly to our discussion—a lens.
Much like the lenses of binoculars or telescopes, the lens in our eye works together with the cornea to bend (refract) light toward our retinas. From here, our brain makes sense of what we’re seeing and we can move about our world with ease.
Unfortunately, like other parts of the body, the lens can weaken with age. Structural proteins within the lens begin to break down, leading to a cloudy, muddy lens where a clear one should be. This condition is called “cataracts,” and is expected to affect up to half the American population over the age of 80.
What Problems Do Cataracts Cause?
As with most vision problems, cataracts can cause a lot of grief, frustration, and lack of mobility, especially in elderly or aging populations between the ages of 40-80+. Among the numerous issues caused by cataracts, the most common problems include:
- Cloudy/blurry vision
“Halos” around lights
Cataracts are generally easy to recognize by a milky, blurry color where the black of the pupils can usually be seen. Cataracts may also make it difficult to find and stick with a certain prescription of corrective lenses.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts are thought to be caused by simple aging. As we grow older, certain cells and protein structures struggle to rebuild themselves over and over without losing some of the structure that made them workable in the first place. The lenses in our eyes are no exception.
Cataracts have other contributing factors, though, such as:
- A lifetime of eye damage (not wearing protective lenses)
Genetics (a family history of cataracts)
Frequent use of steroids (especially corticosteroids)
How are Cataracts Treated?
Cataracts have one definite solution: cataract surgery. Because the natural lenses of your eyes have started to degrade with age, they need to be replaced with artificial lenses that should (in all likelihood) go with you for the rest of your life.
During cataract surgery, your doctor will make small incisions and use ultrasonic waves to dislodge and remove the foggy lens. Afterward, your new lens is implanted and your vision should be instantly improved!
Contrary to popular belief, laser eye surgery is not suitable for removing or treating cataracts. The only definite solution at the present moment is cataract surgery.
Watch, See, Behold, Live
Cataracts may not seem like a dire problem among the mounting health issues of our later years, but they are a real quality-of-life issue that can be addressed by expert ophthalmologists. If you or a loved one suffer from cataracts, contact UAB Medical West today.
With 13 health centers throughout communities like yours in central Alabama, UAB Medical West has the physicians, state-of-the-art facilities, and expert reputation to go along with our expert care.
See Better Without Cataracts at UAB Medical West in Your Community
Cataracts are a curable ailment. With a diagnosis of cataracts followed by cataract surgery, you can see and live better. If you or a loved one are experiencing blurred, foggy vision, don’t wait to see an ophthalmologist. UAB Medical West has a facility near you in Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance. Contact us today!