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Cataracts: The Leading Cause of Adult Vision Loss

Our eyes work a lot like a camera – light rays focus through the lens onto the retina, a layer of light sensitive cells at the back of the eye. Similar to photographic film, the retina allows the image to be seen by the brain.

As we age, the lens of the eye can become cloudy, preventing light rays from passing clearly through the lens. In the beginning stages, it may be so mild or gradual that vision is barely affected. In other cases, it can be so severe that shapes and movement cannot be seen – only light and dark. When the lens becomes cloudy enough to significantly obstruct vision, it’s called a cataract.

Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in adults and a major Indianapolis health issue; nearly everyone over age 65 has some form of cataract development.

In most cases, cataracts develop slowly and progressively, causing a gradual and painless decrease in vision that is not often noticed. The condition might be less apparent for individuals whose cataracts do not develop near the center of the eye’s lens. Individuals who develop cataracts also might experience blurry vision, glare at night, particularly when driving, frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions, a decrease in color intensity, a yellowing of images, and in rare cases, double vision. Causes, in addition to aging, include trauma, some medications, diseases such as diabetes, and exposure to ultraviolet light. Babies are occasionally born with cataracts.

Informational video on cataracts, one of the leading causes of vision loss in Indianapolis and the United States

The best way to determine if you have developed a cataract is to have your eye doctor, like those at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute of the Indiana University School of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology, perform a dilated eye exam. This will allow the eye doctor to determine the severity of the cataract.

Cataracts are treatable. Vision can be corrected in the early stages of a cataract by the use of eye glasses or contact lenses, but the glasses or lenses cannot sharpen vision if a severe cataract is present. Cataracts also can be treated with an outpatient surgical procedure in which an intraocular lens is inserted when the cataract is removed. This synthetic lens replaces the focusing power of the natural lens. IOLs can be monovision, which allows fixed focus for a present distance, or multifocal, which allows focused vision at many distances.

Video animation depicting cataract surgery, a procedure that can be done by the doctors at the Glick Eye Institute in Indianapolis

The time to have cataract surgery is when the cataract’s affects on vision interfere with normal lifestyle. More than 1.5 million Americans have this procedure every year and 95 percent have a successful result.

For more information about cataracts, visit http://iueye.iu.edu/body.cfm?id=97. To schedule an appointment with an Eye M.D. from the Glick Eye Institute in Indianapolis, call the Department of Ophthalmology directly at 317.274.4416 or toll-free at 877.224.8393.

-Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute