How do cataracts affect your vision?
How do cataracts affect your vision?
Vision changes are a common side effect of growing older. As your eye ages, your vision may worsen as the lens loses convexity, or the ability to relax, which is how you can focus on objects near or far. This is why many people need reading glasses as they get older. Another age-related cause of blurriness or vision problems is cataracts, a common eye ailment that affects over half of Americans who live past age 80.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts are a gradual clouding of the eye’s lens, the portion of the eye that lies directly behind the pupil. In a normal eye, the lens focuses light onto the back of the eye, also known as the retina, where the image is picked up by nerve endings and transmitted to your brain.
“In a normal eye, the clear cornea allows light to enter. The iris controls the amount of light entering the eye by changing the size of the pupil,“ according to Southwestern Eye Center. “The light passes through a clear lens and is focused by the lens onto the back of the eye, or the retina, creating a sharp, clear image. Through the natural aging process, the clear lens gradually clouds and hardens. As the clouding increases, vision becomes fogged or blurry because the light is not clearly focused on the retina.”
Cataracts start very small and may be present in the eyes of people in their 40s or 50s. They don’t tend to cause vision problems until after age 60, though there is also a form of cataract that can be present at birth. As cataracts grow, they obscure more and more of the lens, causing a number of symptoms that your eye doctor will use to help diagnose your vision deterioration.
Blurriness tends to be the first problem people experience from cataracts. This blurriness will differ from normal age-related vision changes because it can cause more frequent changes in contact or glasses prescriptions. You may have a harder time driving at night because streetlights and oncoming headlights may seem to have a glare or a halo around them.
When the cataract is small, it may cause double vision even when you look at something with one eye. As the cataract grows and covers more of the lens, this symptom may go away. Cataracts may also cause a symptom known as “second sight,” according to WebMD.
“Sometimes, a cataract may temporarily improve a person’s ability to see close-up, because the cataract acts as a stronger lens,” WebMD explains. “This phenomenon is called second sight because people who may have once needed reading glasses find that they don’t need them anymore.”
This symptom, too, will disappear as the cataract worsens.
Color vision is often also affected by cataracts, as they can cause your vision to take on a brown or yellow hue. This happens so gradually you may not notice it at first, but over time you could notice difficulty in distinguishing between purples and blues.
Treatment for cataracts
Your eye doctor will help you come up with a treatment plan for relieving the symptoms of cataracts. While the cataracts are small, treatment may be as simple as adjusting prescription lenses and wearing sunglasses on bright days. As the cataracts progress, you may decide to opt for cataract surgery, one of the most common microsurgeries done today.
“Modern cataract surgery is performed through an incision less than an eighth of an inch long,” according to Southwestern Eye Center. “A small instrument is inserted through this tiny incision, and is used to break the cataract into many small pieces.” A foldable intraocular lens (IOL) is then inserted through a tube and it unfolds within the eye.
What type of lens implants are available?
“There’s a standard lens that helps improve the vision at a distance and that’s covered by insurance,” according to Michael Horsley, MD, a cataract specialist at Southwestern Eye Center. “There are other types of lenses that potentially you could be qualified for. One of which would help correct astigmatism.”
Lens options as part of cataract surgery include:
- Standard Lens
- The Toric Lens: allows for the correction of an astigmatism
- Multifocal Lens: allows for an extended range of vision from both near, far, and in between
Your eye doctor can work with you to determine which type of lens will work best for you. For a consultation or to find out more about cataract surgery, contact Southwestern Eye Center today.
For more than 35 years, Southwestern Eye Center has provided comprehensive optometry and ophthalmology services, including subspecialty procedures in vitreoretinal disease, oculoplastics, cornea disease, glaucoma, refractive procedures, low vision aids and ocular prosthetics. All of our doctors are highly skilled and many have additional advanced fellowship training. We work closely with a large community of referring optometrists so that patients can remain with the doctors they know and trust.