A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. The lens is a clear oval structure with three layers: the nucleus, the cortex and the capsule. The lens works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina at the back of the eye. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. You have a cataract when the nucleus becomes opaque (that is, it is no longer clear) or when small opacities develop in the cortex that block or scatter light.
Cataract Signs and Symptoms
A cataract starts out small and at first has little effect on your vision. In fact, in the early stages, only a doctor can detect a cataract because there may not be any symptoms. When you do start to notice changes in vision, they could include:
- Blurry distance vision, especially outdoors;
- Streaks or rays of light seeming to come from headlights and stop lights;
- Instinctively shading your eyes from the sun, or feeling more comfortable wearing a visor;
- Print appearing faded and lacking in contrast;
- Colors appearing faded or changed in hue. Blue may appear to be green and yellow may look white;
- Difficulty reading menus at your favorite restaurant.
Because these may also be symptoms of other eye conditions, The Nielsen Eye Center and the AAO recommends that you are seen by an eye care professional annually, or whenever you notice a persistent change in your vision.
Cataracts are treated with surgery. Cataract surgery should be considered when cataracts cause enough loss of vision to interfere with daily activities. If your eyes are not seriously affected by the cataracts, which is often the case with an early cataract, then it is possible for you to get the help you need from a new distance prescription, or stronger reading glasses. Continue to see your eye doctor regularly to evaluate how the cataract is progressing. Some cataracts progress faster in some people than other people.
Dr. Nielsen participates in a number of clinical research trials involving cataracts and their treatment. If you are 45+ and you notice a vision change, or you think you might be a candidate for cataract surgery, please contact The Nielsen Eye Center to schedule a consultation for cataract surgery at our Boston and Quincy, Massachusetts-area practice.