WHAT are CATARACTS?
Cataracts develop when the natural lens of the eye becomes clouded, which leads to reduced vision and sometimes total blindness if not identified early and treated correctly. For most people, cataracts are a natural part of the aging process and begin to develop after the age of 40, which is the general age when the proteins of the lens can start to degrade and/or bunch together. This cloudiness gradually worsens and blocks light from hitting the retina normally. Having cataracts is incredibly common, and cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgery in the U.S. Close to two million men and women undergo cataract surgery every year. The disease can come about very slowly so those in the onset stages usually are not even aware of their condition.
Cataracts are an important reason why receiving comprehensive eye exams annually is crucial to your general ocular health. Our team of board-certified ophthalmologists at The Eye Center of Central PA is experienced in diagnosing and treating cataracts in the earliest stages. Contact one of our offices in Central Pennsylvania to learn about your options for relieving your cataract symptoms and restoring your eye health.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE IT?
Often, the first sign of cataracts is progressively impaired eyesight that isn’t improved with a person’s current eyeglasses or contact lens prescription. Many patients also notice they require brighter light in order to read. Other symptoms may include reduced night vision, seeing more glares or halos, and seeing with an overall yellowish tint. Cataracts don’t cause pain, and they can exist for quite a while before they produce any vision problems. In the majority of people, the condition starts to develop somewhere between the ages of 40 – 50; however, the majority of patients don’t suffer from any cataract symptoms until reaching their 60s.
WHAT CAUSES CATARACTS?
A cataract is caused by the normal aging process and the natural breaking down of the proteins within the eye's lens. This breakdown occurs in all people, but there are other lifestyle and medical factors that might aggravate the process. These can include behavioral habits, such as using tobacco products, drinking too much, or too often. Prolonged exposure to UV rays has also been attributed to the development of cataracts, as well as some medical conditions, like diabetes and hypertension. Further factors that can impact the process include:
- Certain medications, such as steroids
- Certain kinds of eye surgery
- An inherited predisposition for cataracts
- Degenerative myopia
- Eye trauma
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HOW are CATaracts diagnosed?
To diagnose a person with cataracts, an eye doctor has to perform an in-depth eye exam. Our team at The Eye Center of Central PA is highly trained at performing the diagnostic tests that are offered during comprehensive eye exams. The most effective tests to identify a cataract are all extremely easy, relatively brief, and don't cause any pain.
To start, one of our ophthalmologists will conduct a simple acuity test. This is usually done using an eye chart. After that, we might give a contrast sensitivity test. This is a lot like a vision test except it measures how easily the patient is able to perceive contrast in images. Following the acuity and contrast tests, a slit-lamp exam is typically performed. During a slit-lamp exam, our eye surgeons use a customized microscope that directs a strong but especially narrow “slit” of light into the eye to observe its outermost structures. Finally, we will perform the retinal exam and maybe a potential acuity meter (PAM) exam. Before these tests, we will dilate the pupils. This is very important because it enables the best possible vantage point to look at the whole lens for any cataract spots. If a cataract is detected, then the PAM might be done. A PAM determines a patient’s possible acuity as though the cataract didn't exist. The PAM is very important when it comes to determining which IOL (intraocular lens) to use if the patient needs to have surgery.
Cataracts Explained Treatment Options
After we identify a cataract, we will begin to discuss your options for treatment. The most effective solutions for cataracts are chosen, depending on the stage of the disease. In the beginning stages, a majority of patients simply need new prescription lenses. Those with more advanced cataracts generally require a more involved option, like cataract surgery or laser surgery. Our experienced team is devoted to providing each one of our patients with the best possible care. Depending on the diagnosis, we treat cataract patients in our Central PA facility or refer them to a specialist we know and trust.
ACHIEVE CLEARER VISION TODAY
Central Pennsylvania individuals who have any of these symptoms or who haven’t gone in for a comprehensive eye exam in the last two years need to schedule an appointment at The Eye Center of Central PA at their earliest convenience. Particularly for individuals who are over the age of 40, receiving comprehensive eye exams no less than annually is integral to diagnosing and treating cataracts and multiple other eye diseases. With an early diagnosis, we can design a unique treatment plan to manage your condition.