Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide and the leading cause of vision loss among adults 55 or older. However, unlike many other eye diseases, vision loss from cataracts can be treated. In fact, cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery in the United States and boasts a high success rate.
Cataracts cause clouding of the eye’s lens. They affect vision by blocking passage of light into the eye. Cataracts are generally age-related but can occasionally be present at birth. As we get older, the risk of developing cataracts increases. More than half of all people over age 65 have some degree of cataract development. They cannot be treated with medication or eye drops; cataract extraction and lens-implantation surgery is the only effective treatment.
Below are some symptoms that suggest presence of cataracts:
• Blurry, cloudy or filmy vision
• Double vision
• Sensitivity to glare
• Difficulty seeing at night
• Colors appear faded or yellowed
• Problem seeing shapes against a background or distinguishing shades of color
• Seeing “halos” around bright lights
• Changing eyeglass prescriptions often, with minimal or no improvement in vision
• White or yellowish spot in your pupil (normally black).
If you have decreased vision affecting your quality of life or ability to perform activities of daily living, then please see your doctor for further evaluation. You may be referred to an ophthalmologist if your doctor suspects cataracts.
Not all cataracts need to be removed right away. If the cataract is not significantly affecting your vision, then your ophthalmologist may recommend waiting until it becomes problematic.
Regular eye exams, along with regular checkups, can help you stay focused on good health. For additional information about cataracts, visit www.eyecareamerica.org.
Dr. Hong-Phuc Tran is a board-certified geriatrician with the highly ranked UCLA Geriatrics Program in Santa Monica and Westwood. For more information, call 310.319.4371 or visit www.uclahealth.org.