Dr. Jason Swanner knows a thing or two about cataracts.

He knows that cataracts are the #1 cause of reversible vision loss in the world. 

He also knows that while cataracts can cloud your vision, they don’t have to cloud your life.

As part of UAB’s Callahan Eye Hospital medical staff, Dr. Swanner is one of our cataract experts and sees patients at  UAB Medical West in Bessemer, Alabama. Named as one of “America’s Best Doctors” in 2017 and 2018, he was drawn to the Ophthalmology medical specialty because of the profound and permanent life change he could make with his patients.  “Surgical treatment of cataracts can completely restore a patient’s vision. There are very few other types of conditions where complete recovery can be achieved by a very simple outpatient surgery” says Dr. Swanner. 

He goes on to say that often, the most common first symptom of cataracts is when patients start experiencing trouble driving at night. Dr. Swanner continues, “Cataracts will end up happening to all of us if we live long enough. People can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s. But during middle age, most cataracts are small and do not affect vision. It is after age 60 that most cataracts cause problems with a person’s vision.”

Cataract symptoms, risk factors, and causes 

Besides noticing trouble driving at night, patients experience other early symptoms of cataracts as well. Patients also have certain risk factors, from genetic disorders to environmental factors to early eye injuries and conditions.  Below, Dr. Swanner explores each of these in detail.

What are cataracts and how do they form over time?

Most cataracts develop when aging or injury changes the tissue that makes up your

eye’s lens.  Some inherited genetic disorders that cause other health problems can increase your risk of cataracts. 

Cataracts can also be caused by other eye conditions, past eye surgery, or medical conditions such as diabetes. Long-term use of steroid medications, too, can cause cataracts to develop.

Cataracts form when the lens is positioned behind the colored part of your eye (iris).  The lens focuses light that passes into your eye, producing clear, sharp images on the retina (the light-sensitive membrane in the eye that functions like the film in a camera.)  As you age, the lenses in your eyes become less flexible, less transparent and thicker.  Age-related and other medical conditions cause tissues within the lens to break down and clump together, clouding small areas within the lens.

As the cataract continues to develop, the clouding becomes denser and involves a bigger part of the lens. A cataract scatters and blocks the light as it passes through the lens, preventing a sharply defined image from reaching your retina. As a result, your vision becomes blurred.

Cataract symptoms: from double vision to light sensitivity

There are a variety of different symptoms you can develop over time that starts to indicate you might have cataracts.  Some of these symptoms include:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Colors seem faded
  • Glare - headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. Halos may begin appearing  around lights
  • Poor night vision
  • Double vision or multiple images in one eye
  • Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Clouded, blurred or dim vision
  • Need for brighter light for reading and other activities

Risk factors for cataracts

Cataract risk factors include:

Certain diseases (for example, diabetes)

Personal behavior (smoking, alcohol use)

The environment (prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight).

The good news:  cataracts can be cured!

This is the best part of the job for Dr. Swanner.  He says, “It’s very rewarding when a patient’s

vision is restored. Often times, patients end up seeing better than they have ever seen before.”

Proactively checking for cataracts is a must  

The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.

We asked Dr. Swanner is he could share any final self-care advice for his patients? He answered, “If you have a family history of vision loss, it’s important to see an eye care professional even if you are not experiencing any symptoms or problems at the moment.”  He goes on to say “early cataract detection is key because we can do something about it before your vision becomes so affected that it impacts your everyday life.”

Are you or a loved one experiencing early signs of cataracts?  Dr. Swanner and his team are here to help. Call (205) 481-7870 today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Swanner and his team.

Also, you can call our physician referral line at 205-996-WEST to schedule an appointment with a UAB Medical West provider. We are here to serve the communities of Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance and more!