Older couple at home husband wife wearing prescription lenses cataract surgery

Cataract Awareness Month is Here!

June is Cataract Awareness Month, and at The EyeDoctors Optometrists, we’re excited to participate! Every year, the eye care community comes together to spread awareness of cataracts. This year, we’re sharing important information about cataracts to help our patients stay informed and proactive about their eye health.

Cataracts are a common eye condition that can significantly impact your vision and quality of life if left untreated. With cataracts being so prevalent, it's likely you or someone you know will experience them at some point. Read on to discover more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for cataracts from the cataract specialists at The EyeDoctors Optometrists.

Cataracts: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), accounting for over half of all blindness cases. In the United States, nearly 25 million people over the age of 40 are affected by cataracts. This condition can greatly affect daily life, often requiring changes to routines due to impaired vision. But there's good news: cataracts are highly treatable. Understanding what cataracts are and how they develop is the first step in managing this condition.

What Are Cataracts?

Inside your eye is a clear, flexible lens that focuses light on the retina, the back part of the eye responsible for sending images to your brain that are interpreted as images. This lens is made up of collagen and proteins. As we age, these proteins break down and clump together, causing the lens to become cloudy. Over time, this cloudiness increases, eventually obstructing vision and making the pupils appear cloudy or milky. Surgery is the only way to restore clear vision once cataracts have formed.

Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process. Most people will develop them after the age of 40, but there are other factors that can cause cataracts to form earlier.

What Causes Cataracts?

While aging is the most common cause of cataracts, several other health conditions and lifestyle factors can accelerate their development or lead to more severe cases. These include:

  • Diabetes

  • Prolonged steroid use

  • Obesity

  • Significant alcohol consumption

  • Excessive sunlight exposure

  • Smoking

  • Previous eye surgeries or injuries

  • Genetic factors

While you can't completely prevent cataracts, you can reduce your risk by adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

How Are Cataracts Treated?

Once cataracts fully develop, surgery is the only effective treatment. During the procedure, the doctor makes a small incision on the part of your eye where the clear cornea meets the white. A probe is used to break up the clouded natural lens and is vacuumed out. An artificial lens is inserted through the same small incision and will perform the identical job as your natural lens. Your cornea is sealed up, and the healing process begins. There are no shots or sutures, only a few eyedrops!

The procedure typically takes about 10 minutes. For patients with cataracts in both eyes, surgeries are performed a few weeks apart to ensure proper healing. Most patients resume normal activities within a day or two.

For more information on our surgical procedures, visit our Cataract Treatment page.

The 5 Types of Cataracts

Many people mistakenly view cataracts as a single condition affecting the eyes. However, cataracts actually refers to a category of eye condition, while all obstructing vision, appear and react differently from each other inside the eye. Cataracts can be classified into different types based on where they form and the age at which they develop. Here are the five most common types:

Nuclear Cataracts

These cataracts develop in the center of the lens and can initially improve nearsighted vision. However, they eventually impair both near and distant vision and may turn yellowish or brown over time. These are the most common type of cataract, and are what most people usually think of when cataracts are discussed.

Cortical Cataracts

These form on the edges of the lens and appear as white streaks or wedges. They gradually spread towards the center, obstructing vision. With cortical cataracts, your doctor may prescribe a “watch and wait” approach if the cataract isn’t spreading fast or has yet to obstruct your vision. It’s only once the cataract has grown over the center of your eye that it become a problem and you’ll start showing symptoms.

Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts

These cataracts are some of the least common and form at the back of the lens. Of all the cataracts, these impair vision the quickest. Leading to a fast onset of symptoms and earlier recommendations for surgical treatments. We find this type of cataract most often in patients with diabetic eye conditions or people who have been prescribed steroids for inflammation.

Congenital Cataracts

These are some of the rarest cataracts. Congenital cataracts are present at birth or develop very early in childhood (within the first year). As their name implies, the largest contributing factor is genetics. However, eye injuries or infections within the womb can also cause congenital cataracts to appear. It is absolutely crucial that these cataracts be diagnosed and removed as soon as possible, as having obstructed vision as the eyes develop can cause issues with sight in the future, such as amblyopia (lazy eye).

Secondary Cataracts

These aren’t actual cataracts but occasionally occur as a result of treatment for cataracts. The most common form of secondary cataracts is a clouding of the lens capsule, a grouping of clear tissues that hold the lens in place within the eye. During surgery to remove cataracts, the procedure can occasionally leave behind scar tissue which eventually clouds the lens capsule. An additional quick laser treatment, called a YAG, to remove the cloudy capsule solves the problem, after which most patients will not see any further complications.

For more details on the types of cataracts, their formation, and symptoms, visit our comprehensive cataract guide.

When to Seek Help for Cataracts

It's never too early to talk to your eye doctor about cataracts. They can monitor your symptoms and recommend non-surgical treatments until your cataracts require more intensive treatment. The progression of cataracts varies from person to person.

Watch for these symptoms that indicate it’s time to consult an eye doctor for possible surgery:

  • Seeing colors as yellowish or faded

  • Poor color vision in general

  • Difficulty with night driving

  • Shadowing of your vision

  • Glare or halos around lights

  • Difficulty seeing in low light

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact The EyeDoctors Optometrists to schedule a consultation.

Book a Consultation with Our Cataract Specialists

Cataract Awareness Month is the perfect time of year to book your consultation appointment. But any time of year is the right time to make an appointment if your cataracts are impacting your life.

If you or a loved one is experiencing cataract symptoms, seeking professional care is crucial. Our experienced doctors use advanced diagnostic technologies to identify and treat cataracts effectively. We can create a personalized treatment plan to meet your vision needs while suiting your lifestyle.

With 22 locations across the state of Kansas, The EyeDoctors Optometrists cataract specialists are always nearby. Find an EyeDoctors Optometrists office near you and start your journey to clearer, healthier vision today!

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Olathe Mur-Len
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