How did I get cataracts? I hear this all the time from patients who are confused why they used to be able to see and then all of a sudden, it seems like, their glasses don’t work, they can’t drive at night, and they just can’t see like how they used to. This is nothing to be concerned about. Cataracts are a natural aging process that is going to happen to everyone if you’re blessed to live long enough.
It’s so gradual; you might not even notice that it is happening. You just start noticing that those glasses just aren’t right anymore, and getting a new pair doesn’t seem to help. The headlights at night are so blinding, you don’t feel comfortable driving at night on roads you’re not familiar with.
Over time, the natural lens inside your eye starts to yellow and harden due to UV exposure. I like to use the example: if you leave a white piece of paper outside, over time, it’s going to start yellowing, just from being in the sun for that long. There are other ways that cataracts can develop quicker. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes are going to progress quicker due to excess blood sugar levels that will cause swelling in the lens and can lead to cataract formation. Patients who have had a trauma to the eye can develop a cataract suddenly due to mechanical injury. Patients who have been on long term oral or topical steroids can develop cataracts. Patients can also develop them at younger ages due to genetic disorders or having congenital cataracts when they were born.
The good news is that surgeons perform 3.6 million cataract surgeries a year in the United States, making it one of the safest and most common surgeries that are performed. Cataract surgery consists of removing the natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens that allows patients to see brighter and crisper images.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists are able to see this on annual dilated eye exams, so when you hear the word ‘cataracts,’ don’t worry! You’re not alone and, at Virginia Eye Consultants, we’re here to help!
~ Dr. Monique Smyth, Virginia Eye Consultants