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Does Everyone Get Cataracts?

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Cataracts are a common eye condition that affects millions of Canadians. Caused by a clouding of your eye’s natural lens, cataracts can create blurry vision, duller colours, and light sensitivity, affecting many parts of your daily life. But what causes cataracts? Does everyone get them?

Not everybody gets cataracts in their life, though they are extremely common. This highly-treatable condition is caused by various environmental, medical, and genetic factors and is manageable through the help of an optometrist. 

What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a common eye condition caused by the clouding of the natural lens in your eye. This typically-clear lens is responsible for refracting light to reach a focal point on your retina and allows you to build a clear image of the world around you. As cataracts progress further, this lens becomes more cloudy, which can affect your vision.

This is caused by proteins in the eye beginning to break down and clump together into small deposits. These deposits accumulate over time, leading the lens of your eye to slowly become more and more opaque. This disrupts how light refracts towards your retina, leading to blurry vision, light sensitivity, and duller colours.

Cataracts can cause problems when driving, reading, writing, or focusing your eyes. The symptoms of cataracts can range drastically in severity, and the condition progresses at different rates in different people. If you notice any changes in your vision, your first step should be to visit an optometrist so they can determine whether or not you have a cataract developing.

What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts?

While cataracts are a common condition, their effects can range from mild forms of blurry vision to almost total vision impairment. However, there are some typical symptoms, including:

  • Blurry vision, where objects are hazy, cloudy, or simply less sharp than usual. This symptom becomes more severe as cataracts progress
  • Light sensitivity, making it uncomfortable to spend time in well-lit environments or outdoors
  • Problems with night vision, causing difficulty driving at night or seeing clearly in dim areas
  • Dull and faded colours
  • Changes in glasses prescription
  • Double vision in one eye

Cataracts can develop in only one eye rather than both, which can lead to these symptoms varying on a case-by-case basis.

What Causes Cataracts?

Several factors can affect a person’s likelihood of developing cataracts. These can include:

  • Age: age-related cataracts are the most common type of cataracts that forms and occur due to changes in your eye over time. The lens of your eye becomes less transparent as you get older, which can make it more susceptible to clouding
  • Genetics: some people are more likely to develop cataracts due to their specific genetic makeup 
  • Trauma or eye injury: physical damage caused by accidents, injuries, or even surgeries may increase the risk of cataracts
  • Certain medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and even obesity 

There are also lifestyle and environmental factors that can affect a person’s likelihood of developing this condition. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of cataracts, along with improper nutrition and a lack of physical activity.

A senior man facing his optometrist as she shines a small flashlight into his eye.

Can You Prevent Cataracts?

While it is impossible to completely remove the risk of developing cataracts, some steps can be taken to reduce the risk or delay the potential onset of this condition. It helps to:

  • Protect your eyes from bright lights and UV rays: wearing sunglasses with proper UV protection can help protect your eyes from UV rays over time.
  • Quit smoking: smoking is linked to an increased risk of developing cataracts and has many other health implications.
  • Follow a healthy diet: many fruits and vegetables provide your eyes with vitamins and minerals necessary to maintain proper eye health.
  • Manage and treat other underlying health conditions: medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension can damage your eyes, along with many other long-term health problems. It is essential to manage these conditions with the help of a healthcare professional to avoid side effects like cataracts.

It is also essential to regularly visit your optometrist for comprehensive eye exams to be checked for potentially developing conditions like cataracts. Many eye conditions are easier to treat in their earlier stages, so catching them before they significantly affect your vision is crucial.

How Are Cataracts Treated?

While preventative measures are beneficial, it is still possible for cataracts to develop even in healthy eyes. Fortunately, they are considered a highly treatable condition through cataract surgery—one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the country. It can be a safe and effective procedure to restore your vision.

Typically, this surgery involves the removal of your natural clouded lens with the use of specialized equipment. Then, the surgeon will replace it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). This is carefully positioned in the same spot as your natural lens so your eye can operate how it did before the cataract originally formed.

Once this surgery is performed and you have recovered, you should experience improved vision.

Getting Help for Your Cataracts

If you are experiencing blurry vision, double vision, or any other eye problems, your first step should be to visit your optometrist. By seeking the help of a well-trained eye care professional, you can receive an accurate diagnosis of what may be causing your blurry vision. This allows you to work closely with them to plan a treatment. At Eye Care Group in Edmonton, we know how important clear vision is to your daily life. To receive help for your cataracts, schedule an appointment with us today.

Written by Kristiena Bobocel

Kristiena joined the Eye Care Group family business shortly after graduation while working on a degree in ophthalmics from NAIT. Over the years, Kristiena has worked in every aspect of the family business, from dispensing glasses and instructing contacts, to cutting and edging glasses and eventually taking on administrative duties.
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