If you can see clearly, you probably think your eyes are healthy and not think much about eye diseases or even skip your routine eye exam. However, conditions like cataracts are prevalent, especially as you age. More than 24 million Americans have cataracts, and approximately half of Americans have cataracts by the age of 75.
Cataracts, like most health problems, don’t usually cause symptoms in their early stages. For example, you can begin to develop age-related cataracts in your 40s, but not have symptoms until your 60s. Here in Rapid City, South Dakota, Dr. Stephen Khachikian, our experienced ophthalmologist, can diagnose cataracts before you notice symptoms. However, we still want you to recognize the early signs of the condition so you can get help when you need it.
What are cataracts, anyway?
You have a lens in each of your eyes behind your pupil. It focuses light onto your retina, allowing you to see clearly. As you age, the proteins in these lenses gradually break down, making your lens cloudy and developing cataracts.
When you have cataracts, they distort the light that enters your eye, which eventually can cause some bothersome symptoms.
Cataracts interfere with the way light enters your eye — the film of cataracts prevents all the light from reaching your retina. As a result, your vision becomes blurry, and you need increasingly strong eyeglass prescriptions to see clearly. You might have trouble reading, or your night vision can decline.
Everything looks faded
Cataracts also interfere with the way you interpret color. Everything might start to look like an old Polaroid or one of those “old-time” sepia-tinted souvenir photos. This happens because the deteriorating proteins in your lenses can become yellowed or brown-ish. They tint or mute the light that enters your eye, making everything look yellow or faded. You might also have trouble discerning shades of color.
Increased light sensitivity
While you can combat the effects of cataracts by using a bright light to read, use a computer, or watch television, your eyes become more sensitive to light. In some cases, bright light can be quite painful. If your cataract forms at the back of your lens, you’re more likely to develop this uncomfortable symptom.
Other vision distortions
Cataracts distort light as it enters your eye, which causes blurriness and creates other vision distortions. For example, your cataracts can diffract light, which creates hallows or rings around light sources and other objects. Halos are particularly disruptive when you drive at night as headlights can become dazzling and blinding in the dark.
You might also develop double vision as a result of cataracts. You might see images side by side or on top of one another. If your double vision doesn’t go away when you close one eye, it’s probably due to cataracts.
What to do if you notice these symptoms
If you notice any changes in your vision, including these signs of cataracts, make an appointment with Dr. Khachikian. Other eye conditions can cause similar symptoms, and a comprehensive eye exam is the only way to find out exactly what’s causing the problem.
The only treatment for cataracts is surgery to replace your cloudy lenses with new intraocular lenses. Dr. Khachikian monitors your eye health and corrects your vision with prescription lenses for as long as possible, but chances are you will need surgery at some point to protect your vision.
The good news? Cataract surgery is the most common operation performed in the United States, and advances in technology have made it quick, painless, and effective.
Dr. Khachikian can complete the whole procedure in approximately half an hour, and your vision returns to normal almost immediately. You may have some slight discomfort or itchiness for a day or two, but this subsides quickly.
If you’re concerned about cataracts or other eye health problems, call our office or schedule a consultation online for expert diagnosis and state-of-the-art treatment.