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24.4 million Americans over the age of 40 have cataracts

Cataracts are cloudy or opaque areas in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending upon their size and location, cataracts can interfere with normal vision. Usually cataracts develop in both eyes, but one may be worse than the other. Cataracts can cause a decrease in contrast sensitivity, a dulling of colors and increased sensitivity to glare.

Video: What are cataracts?

While most cataracts are related to aging, there are other causes of cataracts

Congenital cataract. Some children are born with cataracts in one or both eyes, or develop them in childhood.  These cataracts can be small enough that they do not affect vision, however some are large enough to reduce vision.  Congenital cataracts are one of the many conditions that are evaluated by our residency-trained pediatric optometrist during infant vision exams.  If a cataract goes undetected and untreated, it can result in amblyopia; a reduction in vision that does not respond to glasses the same way that refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism) does.


The American Optometric Association recommends that every child receive an eye exam before they turn 1.  Our pediatric optometrist, Dr. Jill Kronberg, is passionate about childens' eye health and participates in the InfantSee program that provides free eye exams to any child before their first birthday.


Radiation cataract. Cataracts can develop after exposure to some types of radiation, and therefore can be present in individuals who seem "too young to have cataracts".


Secondary cataract. Cataracts occur with higher frequency in individuals with certain eye diseases, such as glaucoma, or systemic diseases, such as diabetes.  Cataracts are also associated with steroid use.  If you have been diagnosed with a condition that puts you at increased risk of cataract formation, or take steroid medications that increase your risk, you should have annual comprehensive eye examinations.


Traumatic cataract. Cataracts can develop after an eye injury or head injury with enough force to affect the eye.  Cataracts and other complications from eye injury can occur days, weeks, months, or even years after the injury.  For this reason, anyone with a history of trauma should have annual eye exams. 


In addition to traumatic cataracts, head injuries can have numerous other affects on the visual system.  Any person with a history of acquired brain injury (ABI), should be evaluated by an optometrist who has been residency trained in neuro-optometry and binocular vision.  During neuro-optometric assessments, the doctor will be able to evaluate all aspects of your visual system that can be affected during a brain injury.  These areas include: your lens for the presence of a cataract, evaluate eye health, eye teaming (binocular vision), eye focusing (accommodation), visual field (side vision), and visual perception and processing abilities.

Videos: Types of cataracts

Treatment of Cataracts

The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.

A cataract needs to be removed only when vision loss interferes with your everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. You and your eye care professional can make this decision together. Once you understand the benefits and risks of surgery, you can make an informed decision about whether cataract surgery is right for you. In most cases, delaying cataract surgery will not cause long-term damage to your eye or make the surgery more difficult. You do not have to rush into surgery.

Sometimes a cataract should be removed even if it does not cause problems with your vision. For example, a cataract should be removed if it prevents examination or treatment of another eye problem, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. If your eye care professional finds a cataract, you may not need cataract surgery for several years. In fact, you might never need cataract surgery. By having your vision tested regularly, you and your eye care professional can discuss if and when you might need treatment.

If you choose surgery, your eye care professional may refer you to a specialist to remove the cataract.

If you have cataracts in both eyes that require surgery, the surgery will be performed on each eye at separate times, usually four to eight weeks apart.

Many people who need cataract surgery also have other eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma. If you have other eye conditions in addition to cataract, talk with your doctor. Learn about the risks, benefits, alternatives, and expected results of cataract surgery.

Video: How are cataracts treated?

Cataracts are evaluated during every comprehensive eye exam at Artisan Optics

Schedule your exam online or call 208.377.8899 to schedule your appointment