Cataracts are the most common treatable cause of blindness and/or poor vision in Houston and around the world. Our eyes have a natural lens that works to focus light on the retina, giving us a clear and sharp image of the world. This lens, which is about the size of a chocolate M&M, is somewhat flexible, and it can change shape slightly to alter the focal distance as we look at our surroundings. As we age, this lens can harden and become cloudy. This clouding of the lens is called a cataract. To remedy this condition, Houston cataract surgery is performed at Eye Excellence by Dr. Mary Green.
Causes of Cataracts
Most cataracts are a part of the natural aging process. Over long periods of time, ultraviolet light exposure gradually causes cataracts to form in the eyes. Cataracts can also be caused by injuries to the eye, use of certain medications, certain medical diseases, or vitamin deficiencies, but the formation of cataracts for these reasons is quite uncommon. A lifetime of ultraviolet light exposure can also cause cataracts, especially near sunny areas such as Houston.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Most people start to experience problems with glare while driving at night. Bright light sources against a dark background, e.g. headlights or lights on a television in a dark room, will appear to have glare or halos. Patients may notice a loss of color (or yellowing of colors) and loss of detail or sharpness on items such as road signs, magazines, or television captions. Cataract patients often find that they need more and more light to read. They may also see a large change in prescription during their annual eye exam. Although many people notice a cataract in one eye first, they tend to progress at similar rates in each eye. An eye exam will help determine whether other conditions are contributing to a recent decline in vision. In the United States, and in Houston specifically, we are fortunate that people generally have access to high standards of medical care. In other parts of the world, cataracts are a common cause of blindness that can be easily cured with proper intervention.
Eyeglasses and Cataracts
An eye examination will determine the total health of a person’s eye. Eye exams screen for several disorders such as macular degeneration and glaucoma. An eye exam allows us to tell if a change in prescription will improve their vision, even with cataracts. Cataract symptoms are manageable up to a point without surgical intervention. However, cataracts will eventually reach an unmanageable point that requires cataract removal surgery. The reason that mature cataracts cannot simply be corrected by a number of prescription changes is that light passing through a cataract is not just bent, it is also scattered, making it appear quite dim with mature cataracts.
Prevent Those Cataracts Houston!
Wearing ultraviolet (UV) blocking sunglasses in bright sunlight may help slow the progression of cataracts. Because most Eye Excellence patients live in Houston, most of our patients are subjected to a great amount of heat and bright summer sunlight. Investing in a good pair of UV blocking sunglasses is a simple way to provide vision protection against cataracts and perhaps pterygium, and it will keep you from squinting and reduce the formation of crow’s feet at the corners of the eyes as well. Additionally, maintaining a healthy diet with an adequate amount of antioxidants and vitamins may help slow the development of cataracts and contribute to overall good health.
When to Remove a Cataract
When cataracts cause enough vision loss to interfere with your daily activities, cataract surgery should be considered. Patients no longer have to wait for the cataract to become “ripe” as they did in the mid-20th century. If left untreated, cataracts may become so advanced that they cause other eye diseases such as glaucoma and uveitis, which could lead to permanent, irreversible vision loss. The good news is that cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective procedures performed in medicine, and it is in fact the most commonly performed surgery in the United States each year. Eye Excellence Vision Center in Houston, Texas, prides itself on expertise in clear corneal microincision cataract surgery.
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