Cataracts of the eye is a clouding over the lens of the eye. It can be found in one or both eyes, and in varying stages. This disease of the eye usually comes about somewhat later in life. It is more predominant in females rather than males. If left untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness. Luckily, diagnosis and treatment is readily available to cataract patients as long as you schedule regular eye exam visits with your optometrist, like Terrezza O.D. & Associates, P.A.. Cataracts are painless, though accompanied by visual disturbances.

What causes cataracts?

Aging is the most common cause of developing cataracts. However, there are other underlying causes that can contribute to it. For example, smoking, certain medications, past trauma, radiation, existing skin diseases and genetics are all contributory factors. There are also a number of medical conditions that are commonly associated with cataracts. Some factors are under a person's control, like smoking and radiation (lack of the use of sunglasses). Others are out of individual control, like genetics and existing skin or medical conditions.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

Regular visits to your optometrist can help in the diagnosis of cataracts. As mentioned, it comes about without discomfort, but with vision problems. Often, it is this clouding or glare of vision that brings people to their optometrist's office. The optometrist performs visual tests to determine the progression of the disease. If you are experience vision problems in between your annual eye exam visits, schedule an appointment with your optometrist to ask if you might have developed cataracts.

How are cataracts treated?

Cataracts can only be removed by surgery. Laser eye surgery has made this process much easier and less invasive. The surgery itself is easy on the patient and does not require a general anesthetic. Even the local anesthetic is delivered via eye drops. In simplistic terms, the existing clouded lens is removed and new plastic permanent lens is inserted. Up until recently, cataracts needed to reach a certain stage before surgery could be performed. This left patients for months or possibly more with cloudy and worsening vision.

Today, the surgery can be done at any stage, a relief to many. And because cataracts can be removed at any point, even those with debilitating vision loss due to cataracts can get relief at this stage.

Cataracts are a common vision problem as we age. Sadly, not all who develop cataracts are able or willing to seek help. Thus, cataracts are still the leading cause of blindness in the world. For those who can get treatment, some types of previous vision problems (like myopia) can be resolved through cataract surgery as well.