About 20 million people globally are blind due to cataracts. It is the cause of about 5% of blindness in the United States and nearly 60% of blindness in parts of Africa and South America. About half the people in the United States have had cataracts by the age of 80.
Cataracts are most commonly due to aging, but may also occur due to trauma, radiation exposure, be present from birth, or occur following eye surgery for other problems. Risk factors include diabetes, smoking tobacco, prolonged exposure to sunlight, and alcohol. A cataract is the result of the lens becomes cloudy thereby reducing the transmission of light to the retina at the back of the eye. Diagnosis is by an eye examination.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye leading to a decrease in vision. It can affect one or both eyes. Often it develops slowly. Symptoms may include faded colors, blurry vision, halos around light, trouble with bright lights, and trouble seeing at night. This may result in trouble driving, reading, or recognizing faces. Poor vision may also result in an increased risk of falling and depression. Cataracts are the cause of half of blindness and 33% of visual impairment worldwide.
- Clouded, blurred or dim vision
- Increasing difficulty with vision at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Seeing "halos" around lights
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Double vision in a single eye
At first, the cloudiness in your vision caused by a cataract may affect only a small part of the eye's lens and you may be unaware of any vision loss. As the cataract grows denser, it clouds more of your lens and distorts the light passing through the lens. This may lead to signs and symptoms you're more likely to notice.
Prevention includes wearing sunglasses and not smoking. Early on the symptoms may be improved with eyeglasses. If this does not help, surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens is the only effective treatment. Surgery generally results in an improved quality of life. Cataract surgery is a quick outpatient surgery that is very safe and effective. The cataract is removed through a small incision in a completely pain free manner. A new lens is implanted into the eye to restore vision. There are now a number of different lens implant options including multifocal and astigmatism correcting lens implants. Dr. Sugg will discuss these options with you and help you to select the best option for our individual needs.
Sources: The Mayo Clinic