Maybe you’ve heard the old adage: if you live long enough you’ll get cataracts. For the most part this is true but did you know you can also be born with cataracts? Cataracts are very common as we get older, usually these changes start at the age of 40 and worsen producing symptoms in our 60’s and 70’s. It’s not just humans that get cataracts, your K9 friends get them too!
When you are born there is a part of the eye called the lens, you cannot see it in the mirror because it is hidden behind the colored part of the eye. Most people are born with a clear lens, although rare you can be born with a cloudy or colored lens called a congenital cataract. A cataract is when this clear lens becomes cloudy, like milk, instead of clear, like water. This cloudiness can be from many causes. The most common cause is age due to accumulation of UV damage to the lens and changes to the proteins inside of it. Cataract changes can be accelerated by things like smoking, use of certain medications, eye injuries or surgery and spending too much time in the sun.
Signs and symptoms of cataracts include: blurry vision, increase in glare, sensitivity to light, dimming or washing out of colors, and trouble in dark conditions. Many of these symptoms can be caused by other ocular diseases and disorders so it is important to get a dilated eye exam yearly to determine the cause of your changes in vision if you experience any of these symptoms.
To diagnose a cataract you must have a dilated eye exam. This can be done by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. You can have a cataract in one eye or both eyes, if you have a cataract in one eye and not the other it does not mean it will spread to the other eye or is contagious just that the changes are occurring at different rates between the eyes. The good news is that cataracts are easily treatable with surgery. Surgery may sound scary but cataract extraction is one of the most common surgeries in the world and recovery is very quick.
Remember, yearly eye exams are very important. Although cataracts can be treated effectively and easily, it is important to distinguish these changes from other sight threatening conditions that may not be as easily treatable.
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