For many, as they age, cataracts become a part of daily life. But because cataracts progress slowly, older adults may not even realize they have them or realize just how extensively the cataracts are compromising their vision. That said, there are some warning signs you should know about so you can take the necessary steps to help prevent or delay the progression of cataracts.
What Does a Cataract Look Like?
A cataract is a clouding of the internal lens of the eye. This cloudiness starts slowly and, at times, over only part of the lens. For this reason, it can go unnoticed. As the cloudiness grows, the entire lens is completely covered and obstructed by the cloudy or white area. At that point, blindness can occur.
How to Tell if You Have a Cataract
There are many signs of cataracts that one should watch for in adults as they age. These signs can include seeing halos around lights, increased difficulty seeing at night, blurry vision in just one eye, as well as a yellowing or fading of the colors of the eye.
If you or a loved one wonder, “How do I know if I have cataracts?” — there are a few simple answers to this question. If your loved one complains of sensitivity to bright lights or the sun, this can be a sign of cataracts. When cataracts are present in the eye, you may experience excess glare from oncoming car headlights when driving at night.
One of the most common symptoms of cataracts and the easiest way to tell if a senior adult has cataracts is blurred vision, or even double vision. This may be in one eye or both, but it shouldn’t be ignored or assumed it is a normal part of aging; it isn’t.
How Do You Get Cataracts?
The lens of the eye is made up, for the most part, of protein and water. The protein acts in a way that allows light to pass through it and keeps the lens clear. As one ages, the proteins can begin to cluster together. This, in turn, causes the cloudiness associated with cataracts.
While the exact cause of cataracts is unknown, there are some risk factors that can play a role in their development. These factors that lead to the formation of cataracts can include eye surgery or injury as well as long-term use of corticosteroid medications.
Other risk factors to watch for include:
- Family history
- Ultraviolet radiation from the sun
How to Protect Yourself From Cataracts
While an older adult may not be able to ensure they don’t develop cataracts, there are a few risk factors that they can reduce or eliminate. The easiest is to be sure to wear sunglasses and a hat outside to help block ultraviolet rays that may aid in the development of contacts.
If your loved one is a smoker, encourage him or her to stop. Diet changes can also help delay cataracts and reduce the chances of developing diabetes — yet another factor that may cause cataracts to form.
The most important lesson is to understand is that cataracts are not something your loved one needs to live with. If you do think they may have cataracts, the best course of action is to have their eyes checked by an optometrist. A professional opinion can help you determine the next steps to clearer vision.
If you have any stories you’d like to share about yourself or a loved one who is dealing with cataracts, please write about it in the comments below.