Cataracts are one of the most common eye conditions in the world and a leading cause of blindness. They occur when advancing age causes changes to the proteins that are found in the natural lens of the eye. These are usually evenly-dispersed across the lens so that they don’t obstruct your vision. However, as you get older they start to clump together, causing the cloudy patches that characterize cataracts. These get increasingly larger until your vision is significantly obscured. Many people compare it to looking through frosted glass.
Although aging is the most common trigger for cataracts, there are some things that can speed up their formation and mean that they are diagnosed in people under the age of 60. These include:
Using steroid medications, such as those used to treat arthritis or Lupus
Taking phenothiazine medications, which are used to treat conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia
Spending a lot of time in the sun without wearing sunglasses/adequate UV protection
There are a number of different symptoms associated with cataracts. If you experience any of the following, then you may be suffering from this common condition:
Your vision is cloudy or blurred
Colors look faded
You can’t see well at night
Lamps, sunlight or headlights seem too bright
You see halos around lights
You see double
Your prescription changes regularly
If you or your eye doctor thinks that you may have cataracts, you may be offered a cataract evaluation.
There are a variety of elements involved in a cataract evaluation. These are usually broken down into several different elements.
You are probably already familiar with a dilated eye exam – where you are given special eyedrops to dilate your pupils so that your eye doctor can look through your eyes at the structures at the back. Once your eye doctor has measured your eyes, they will perform a dilated eye exam which will enable them to examine your actual cataract, as well as ensuring that the retina, macula and optic nerve are healthy and in good condition. This is important because diseases in the back of the eye can affect which type of IOL is best for you.
Also known as an OCT scan, this is a special type of advanced imaging that enables your eye doctor to take highly accurate, 3D images of your eyes. This helps to check for any abnormalities.
It’s important to be aware that if you usually wear contact lenses, you will need to switch to glasses for a short period before your cataract evaluation. This is usually at least 1-2 weeks for soft contact lenses and even longer for the hard variety. Make sure to follow the instructions provided by your eye doctor!
If you would like to learn more about what’s involved in a cataract evaluation, call Dr. Bittar and Dr. Schultz at the Eye Center of Virginia at our office in Williamsburg, Virginia. You can call (757) 919-3500 to book an appointment today.