June is Cataract Awareness month, but what exactly are cataracts? 

The parts of our eyes that are affected by cataracts are the lenses. The lenses in our eyes are similar to a “zoom” lens in a camera. They change shape to adjust and accommodate to the distance of objects that we are looking at in order to provide sharp images to the retina. 

Cataracts cloud these lenses, which in turn leads to blurred or obstructed vision and if left unattended, blindness.

There are different types of cataracts:
-Nuclear Cataracts: this type of cataract affects the center of the lens, gradually causing it to change from clear to yellow, and sometimes to even become brown. This yellowing or browning of the lens blurs vision by creating glare and makes distinguishing between shades of colours difficult.
-Cortical Cataracts: with cortical cataracts, a whitish opaque edge or streak forms at the edge of the lens and obstructs light from coming through to the retina.
-Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts: a small opaque area forms at the back of the lens, hindering light from attaining the retina, causing reduced vision in brightly lit spaces, glare from lights at night and diminished vision while reading.
-Congenital Cataracts: although we associate cataracts with aging, some cataracts are genetic, or can be linked to an infection contracted in utero such as rubella. Therefore, some infants are born with cataracts or develop them during childhood. 

Signs & Symptoms:
Cataracts are progressive. You may not notice them at first, but they can lead to serious vision issues. Here are some signs to look out for:
-Clouded, blurred or diminished vision
-Poor night vision
-Sensitivity to light and glare
-Requiring more light while reading or during other activities
-Seeing halos around lights
-Colours appear more faded
-Double vision in one eye
-Frequent changes in eyeglass prescription

Risk Factors:
-Age
-Exposure to sunlight
-Diabetes
-High blood pressure
-High cholesterol
-Smoking
-Previous eye injury or surgery
-Prolonged use of steroid medication

Prevention:
Cataracts have not proven to be 100% preventable, however, there are steps you can follow to ensure your eyes will stay healthier, longer:
-Regular eye exams
-Manage your health problems through the prescribed treatments
-Quit smoking
-Wear quality sunglasses
-Eat lots of fruits, veggies and an overall healthy diet

Treatment:
To effectively treat cataracts, surgery is required. During the surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one. With modern techniques and technology this surgery is a very safe procedure. Most patients notice improved vision almost immediately after surgery.

If you think you may have cataracts make your eye exam appointment today!