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  • Writer's pictureBrooke Felger

At a Glance: Cataracts

According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of all people over the age of 80 either have cataracts or have undergone surgery to treat them. Chances are, you know someone who has been told they have cataracts.

What are cataracts?

To answer that question, we need to talk about the lens. The lens is the clear part of your eye that aids in focusing light. It sits behind the iris (colored part of your eye), and is able to "flex" to refocus light to the back of your eye.

Over time, the lens of the eye can become cloudy due to the proteins within the lens breaking down and sticking together. Usually this happens slowly over time, but it can also happen due to eye trauma or as a result of another eye condition (for example, Glaucoma). Cataracts generally continue to worsen with time.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

Because cataracts are usually slow to develop, many people may not notice any symptoms or changes in vision right away. As the cataract grows, people will generally experience:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision

  • "Halos" around lights, or increased sensitivity to light

  • Trouble correcting vision to 20/20, or the need to change glasses/contacts prescriptions often

  • Colors seeming duller

  • Double vision

  • Trouble seeing at night

Imaging holding a pane of glass that has been smeared with Vaseline in front of your eyes. Not so clear, huh?

What causes cataracts?

Most people will naturally develop cataracts around the age of 40, and generally won't cause any visual disturbance until after 60. There are, however, certain genetic, environmental and medical factors that may increase your risk of developing cataracts.

Overexposure to UV rays and pollution, alcohol consumption and smoking can increase chances of developing cataracts and their severity. Those who suffer from Glaucoma, Diabetes, or take corticosteriods are also at a higher risk for developing cataracts.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

An Optometrist or Ophthalmologist can determine whether you have cataracts during your annual, comprehensive dilated eye exam. It's important that you visit your eye doctor annually to identify any eye conditions or disease early.

How are cataracts treated?

As stated before, early cataracts are usually just monitored if they are not affecting your activities of daily life. Once you feel that your cataracts are significantly interfering with daily life, you may be referred for cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures performed in the world. During the procedure, the surgeon will remove the cloudy lens and replace it will a clear, intraocular lens (IOL). This is a permanent artificial lens that will stay in your eye. In many cases, your surgeon can even correct some of your refractive error (place an IOL with prescription in it) during the surgery, decreasing your need for glasses or contacts after surgery.

To sum it up:

Cataract surgery is very safe, and has an extremely high rate of success. You should discuss the benefits and risks of cataract surgery with your eye doctor. I used to work for a large clinic that performed nearly 40 of these a day (one doctor!). It was so extremely rewarding to see people regain their vision. Often, the progression was so slow they hadn't realized how bad it had gotten until after the cataract was removed.

As always, be sure to seek emergency care right away if you experience any sudden visual changes, vision loss, flashes of light or new floaters, a "veil" of vision loss coming in from the periphery (often described as a "curtain"). These can be signs of a retinal detachment and need to be addressed urgently.

If you are concerned you may have cataracts, give us a call at 616-846-4200, and we would be happy to schedule you with a comprehensive exam.

If it is found that you do have cataracts, and want to explore the option for surgery, the staff here at Evergreen Eye Care is prepared to refer you to an experienced, knowledgeable surgeon for further evaluation.

Dr. David Felger has over 15 years of experience in eye care. Due to his extensive medical Optometry training, he is also trained to provide cataract post-operative care after your surgery.

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1 Comment

E Christie Larke
E Christie Larke
Aug 08, 2023

My vision needed help. Dr. Dave is wonderful! I was greeted by a beautiful, cheerful Brooke. Genevieve helped me find frames and made sure I did NOT look like a bug. I am a professional cook, now I can go to work and NOT chop my fingers off while preparing delicious food! Thanks Evergreen Eye Care!

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