The emergence of age-related health conditions is one of the unfortunate parts of growing older. The list of health issues related to age range from diabetes to dementia and cardiovascular problems. But the process of aging can also affect our vision in the form of cataracts.

Many people experience cataracts in their golden years. Thankfully, there are now ways to identify and treat this often-aggravating condition. The key is to know what having cataracts involves and taking the right steps toward resolving the issue…

Put simply, a cataract appears like a clouding of the vision. Normally, a person’s vision would be clear. However, as we age, proteins in the eye can begin to deteriorate, causing our eyesight to worsen and become blurry.

In most cases cataracts develop slowly over many years, which means many people may not even realize they’re affected by the condition. In many cases the condition appears in a person’s later years: age 60 to 80.

Contrary to popular belief, cataracts is not caused by overuse of the eyes. You cannot get cataracts by reading too much, watching too much television, using the computer too long, or sleeping too little.

Cataracts can be the result of some lifestyle choices. Significant eye injuries (such as being hit in the eye) can lead to cataracts. Finally, diabetes and over-exposure to ultraviolet (or sun) light can lead to the emergence of cataracts.

There are a number of different types of cataracts. The most prevalent is age-related, meaning that the condition emerges as people enter their 60s and 70s. Another type is traumatic, which means the condition emerges as the result of a serious eye injury, which can appear in athletes or people employed in jobs where the eye is exposed to threats.

Congenital cataracts, which affects babies in their first year of life, is far less common. Also less common is secondary cataracts, which can be linked to medications (i.e., corticosteroids) or a disease like diabetes.

Symptoms of Cataracts

The most obvious sign of cataracts is the clouding of the vision. This may mean several things: vision could appear generally blurry, or spots may appear. Colors may also appear faded or less vibrant than before.

Other symptoms of cataracts include a sensitivity to light. For example, at night halos may appear around street lights. Additionally, if someone is finding that they must frequently update their eyeglass prescription, and this doesn’t always help to improve their vision, they may need to see an eye doctor about the issue and ask specifically about cataracts.

Diagnosing cataract

There are a number of ways to test for cataracts. The first and best approach is to make an appointment with your eye care professional. They can scan the eyeballs to see how different lighting conditions affect the eye and determine if you have cataracts, simply need a new prescription, or are dealing with another eye problem.

It’s important to note that it’s impossible to determine if one has cataracts without carrying out a full eye exam. So, don’t panic just because your vision has suddenly appeared slightly blurry in recent days or weeks.

Prevention of cataract

Because this condition often appears in older people it can be very difficult to prevent the issue from developing. However, there are a number of basic eye safety steps that can and should be taken.

For one, always wear sunglasses when going outside for extended periods of time, particularly in the summer. Second, protect your eyes when playing sports or working in environments (i.e., construction sites), watch your diet, particularly if you’re diagnosed with diabetes.

Treatment of cataract

Treatments for cataracts is only surgical. In most cases a cataract diagnosis will result in surgery to remove the cataract and install a replacement artificial lens. Your surgeon will help determine which type of lens is right for you prior to surgery.

There are no medications that can effectively treat cataracts.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cataracts, don’t fret: not only is surgery relatively straightforward, it can help to improve your overall vision and may reduce the need for corrective lenses. Surgery is generally performed on an outpatient basis using local anesthesia, which means you should be able to go home on the same day the procedure is carried out.

That said, surgery is always serious, even when the procedure is minor. Be sure to have a detailed conversation with your doctor about the most appropriate time to take this significant step.