Cataract

ExitCare ImageA cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. When a lens becomes cloudy, vision is reduced based on the degree and nature of the clouding. Many cataracts reduce vision to some degree. Some cataracts make people more near-sighted as they develop. Other cataracts increase glare. Cataracts that are ignored and become worse can sometimes look white. The white color can be seen through the pupil.

CAUSES

  • Aging. However, cataracts may occur at any age, even in newborns.

  • Certain drugs.

  • Trauma to the eye.

  • Certain diseases such as diabetes.

  • Specific eye diseases such as chronic inflammation inside the eye or a sudden attack of a rare form of glaucoma.

  • Inherited or acquired medical problems.

SYMPTOMS

  • Gradual, progressive drop in vision in the affected eye.

  • Severe, rapid visual loss. This most often happens when trauma is the cause.

DIAGNOSIS

To detect a cataract, an eye doctor examines the lens. Cataracts are best diagnosed with an exam of the eyes with the pupils enlarged (dilated) by drops.

TREATMENT

For an early cataract, vision may improve by using different eyeglasses or stronger lighting. If that does not help your vision, surgery is the only effective treatment. A cataract needs to be surgically removed when vision loss interferes with your everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. A cataract may also have to be removed if it prevents examination or treatment of another eye problem. Surgery removes the cloudy lens and usually replaces it with a substitute lens (intraocular lens, IOL).

At a time when both you and your doctor agree, the cataract will be surgically removed. If you have cataracts in both eyes, only one is usually removed at a time. This allows the operated eye to heal and be out of danger from any possible problems after surgery (such as infection or poor wound healing). In rare cases, a cataract may be doing damage to your eye. In these cases, your caregiver may advise surgical removal right away. The vast majority of people who have cataract surgery have better vision afterward.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

If you are not planning surgery, you may be asked to do the following:

  • Use different eyeglasses.

  • Use stronger or brighter lighting.

  • Ask your eye doctor about reducing your medicine dose or changing medicines if it is thought that a medicine caused your cataract. Changing medicines does not make the cataract go away on its own.

  • Become familiar with your surroundings. Poor vision can lead to injury. Avoid bumping into things on the affected side. You are at a higher risk for tripping or falling.

  • Exercise extreme care when driving or operating machinery.

  • Wear sunglasses if you are sensitive to bright light or experiencing problems with glare.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have a worsening or sudden vision loss.

  • You notice redness, swelling, or increasing pain in the eye.

  • You have a fever.