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What is a cataract? 

When the clear lens within your eye becomes cloudy and opaque, it is called a cataract. Cataracts vary from extremely small areas of cloudiness to large opaque areas that cause a noticeable blurring of vision. Cataracts develop without pain or redness. However, some indications that a cataract may be forming include:

     • Blurred or hazy vision that cannot be corrected with glasses. 
     • The feeling of having a film over the eyes that does not go away with blinking. 
     • A temporary change in distance and/or near vision.  
     • An increased sensitivity to glare, especially at night. 

Who gets cataracts? 

Cataracts are a function of aging and are most often found in people over the age of 60. They are also occasionally found in younger people if they have specific risk factors such as diabetes, trauma or other conditions. In rare cases, it can affect newborns. If a child is born with a cataract, it is referred to as a congenital cataract. 

What causes cataracts? 

Aging, and several factors contribute to the formation of cataracts. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation (present in sunlight), cigarette smoke, certain systemic conditions, trauma or the use of certain medications are also risk factors for the development of cataracts. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes, but often at different rates. 

Can cataracts be prevented? 

Wearing sunglasses is a tremendous benefit as they protect your lens from harmful UV rays, which can speed up cataract formation. A diet rich in antioxidants (such as Vitamins A, C, E, Zinc Selenium & Magnesium) can also be beneficial. Overtime, however, it is common for everybody to experience some symptoms of cataracts.

What are the signs/symptoms of cataracts? 

Some indications that a cataract may be forming include blurred or hazy vision that cannot be corrected by changing the glasses prescription. Some people may experience the feeling of having a film over the eyes that does not go away with blinking. A temporary change in distance and/or near glasses may also occur. An increased sensitivity to glare, especially at night may be experienced. 

How are cataracts diagnosed? 

A comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist can determine if you have a cataract forming. 

How are cataracts treated? 

In the early stages of a cataract, where vision is only minimally affected, your optometrist can often prescribe new lenses for your glasses to give you the sharpest vision possible. The final treatment for a cataract that is interfering with vision and cannot be corrected with glasses, is surgery. Your optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) who may recommend the surgical removal of the cataracts. This is the most common surgery performed world wide. 

When will I need to have cataracts removed? 

Cataracts may develop slowly over many years or they may form rapidly in a matter of months. Some cataracts never progress to the point that they need to be removed. When a change in glasses can no longer provide functional vision, and the cataract is starting to interfere with your daily activities, your optometrist will arrange a consultation with a cataract surgeon. 

What is cataract surgery? 

Cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure to remove the cloudy crystalline lens from the eye and replace it with a clear implant. With improved technology, options now exist when it comes to selecting the proper lens implant for your eyes.

Frequently, the lens implant can give sufficient distance vision that you may not need glasses for driving or watching TV. Multifocal artificial lens implants have been used in cataract surgery to reduce the need for reading glasses after the operation.

If glasses are still needed after surgery, your optometrist will prescribe new lenses about four weeks after surgery to maximize your distance and near vision.

Keep in mind there are always risks associated with any surgery. These risks and limitations require a discussion with an optometrist or ophthalmologist before the procedure. 

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