Everything You Need to Know About Cataracts

Did you know that more than 24.4 million Americans over the age of 40 are diagnosed with cataracts? The risk of cataracts developing and worsening increases as you age, in fact over half of Americans over the age of 75 have cataracts.

Though cataracts aren’t uncommon, caring for individuals with cataract disease can be incredibly challenging, especially without the proper resources. Learn more about cataracts and the different options to make caring for cataracts easier.

What are cataracts?

Before delving into the definition of what a cataract is, it’s important to understand what the eye’s lens is and how it affects people’s vision.

The eye lens lies beneath the eye’s cornea and assists in focusing light and images onto the retina of the eye. Once light and images pass through the transparent lens of the eye and reach the retina, the light and images are transmitted into nerve signals and transported to the brain.

As individuals grow older, the proteins inside the eye lens painlessly clump together, clouding this typically clear lens. This clouding of the eye lens is called a cataract.

What are the different types of cataracts?

Though most cases of cataracts are age-related, other types of cataracts do exist.

     - Secondary Cataract: A cataract can occur after surgery or other
        health problems, like glaucoma, diabetes, and steroid abuse.

     - Traumatic Cataract: Cataracts can occasionally develop days
        or even years after the eye experiences a traumatic injury.

     - Congenital Cataract: Babies can be born with cataracts or
       may develop them at a young age. Though both eyes are
       typically affected with congenital cataracts, they are often
       so small that vision is not altered.

     - Radiation Cataract: Cataracts have also been known to
       develop after extensive exposure to various types of ionizing
       radiation like that used in cancer therapy and X-rays.

     - Nuclear Cataracts: Nuclear cataracts are the most common type of cataract.
       They form in the center or nucleus of the lens of the eye.
       They are often caused by the natural aging process and are usually
       associated with the breakdown of proteins in the lens,
       which results in cloudiness and yellowing of the eye lens.

What causes cataracts?

Though cataracts begin small, affecting only a small portion of the lens, time and age typically worsen this disease, causing vision impairment over time. Even though experiencing cataracts this is a painless process, the deterioration of vision can be both frustrating and frightening.

Researchers have discovered that lifestyle habits and certain behaviors can add to the risk of cataract disease, like:

     - Frequent sun exposure without proper eye protection
     - Smoking
     - High blood sugar
     - High blood pressure
     - Steroid medications
     - Hormone replacement therapy
     - Excessive amounts of alcohol
     - Obesity

What are common symptoms of cataracts?

No matter how well we care for our eyes, the development of cataracts is often inevitable. However, with regular eye exams and attention to our vision health, cataracts can be detected early with the possibility of different treatment. If you notice any of the following eye symptoms, make an appointment with your VSP network doctor as soon as possible. Here are the most common symptoms of cataracts:

     1. Your vision appears cloudy, blurry, or dim.
     2. Doing activities at night becomes much more difficult.
     3. Your eye’s lens appears darker with a hint of yellow or brown.
     4. Eyes become extremely sensitive to light.
     5. The clouded lens diffracts light entering the eye causing halo-like rings to surround the light source.
     6. Eyesight worsens rapidly and your prescription changes frequently.
     7. The yellow or brownish clumps of protein in your lens give everything a yellowish tint.
     8. Clouding of your eye causes double vision or diplopia.

How can I find out if I have cataracts?

If you notice any of the above symptoms like cloudy vision, sensitivity to light or yellowing eye lenses, it is recommended that you make an eye exam appointment with your eye doctor immediately. If cataracts are diagnosed, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist, or an eye specialist who performs cataract surgery. Here are a few things you can do to prepare for your eye exam: 

     1. Write down a list of questions you want to ask your eye doctor. You might want to ask about
         surgery protocol, risks, timelines, and more.
     2. Make a list of all the medications you are taking. Include vitamins and supplements as well.
     3. Bring someone along to your eye exam appointment to take notes or keep track of questions.
     4. Make note of any life stressors or changes that could be impacting your health and your impaired vision.
     5. Write down all symptoms you’ve experienced and how long you’ve been experiencing them.

VSP Individual Vision Plans Can Help You Save on Vision Care

Care for your eyesight with vision insurance coverage from VSP.  With annual plans starting as low as $13 per month, VSP Individual Vision Plans provide a WellVision Exam each year and access to a vast network of eye doctors you can trust. VSP vision enrollment is open year-round, and you can choose a future effective date that works with your schedule. Sign up for a vision insurance plan online or learn more about eye insurance coverage today.

 

Information received through VSP Vision Care's social media channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition

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