All You Need to Know About Cataracts

Did you know that more than 22 million Americans over the age of 40 are diagnosed with cataracts? The risk of cataracts developing and worsening increases as you age, in fact over half of Americans over the age of 80 have this eye disease.

Though this eye problem isn’t uncommon, caring for individuals with cataract disease can be incredibly challenging, especially without the proper resources. Learn more about cataracts and the different options to make caring for cataracts easier.

What is a cataract?

Before delving into the definition of a cataract, it’s important to understand what the eye’s lens is and how it affects vision.

The lens lies beneath the eye’s cornea and assists in focusing light and images onto your retina. Once light and images pass through the transparent lens and reach the retina, they are transmitted into nerve signals and transported to the brain.

As individuals grow older, the proteins inside the lens painlessly clump together, clouding this typically clear lens. This clouding of the lens is called a cataract.

What are the types of cataracts?

Though most cases of cataracts are age-related, other types of cataracts do exist.

     - Secondary Cataract: A cataract can occur after surgery or other
        health problems, like glaucoma, diabetes, and steroid abuse.

     - Traumatic Cataract: Cataracts can occasionally develop days
        or even years after the eye experiences a traumatic injury.

     - Congenital Cataract: Babies can be born with cataracts or
       may develop them at a young age. Though both eyes are
       typically affected with congenital cataracts, they are often
       so small that vision is not altered.

     - Radiation Cataract: Cataracts have also been known to
       develop after extensive exposure to various types of ionizing
       radiation like that used in cancer therapy and X-rays.

What causes cataracts?

Though cataracts begin small, affecting only a small portion of the lens, time and age typically worsen this disease, causing vision impairment over time. Though this is a painless process, the deterioration of vision can be both frustrating and frightening.

Recently, researchers have discovered that lifestyle habits and certain behaviors can add to the risk of cataract disease, like:

     - Frequent sun exposure without proper eye protection
     - Smoking
     - High blood sugar
     - High blood pressure
     - Steroid medications
     - Hormone replacement therapy
     - Excessive amounts of alcohol
     - Obesity

What are common symptoms of cataracts?

No matter how well we care for our eyes, the development of cataracts is often inevitable. However, with regular eye exams and attention to our vision health, cataracts can be detected early with the possibility of treatment. If you notice any of the following eye symptoms, make an appointment with your VSP network doctor as soon as possible:

  1. Your vision appears cloudy, blurry, or dim.
  2. Doing activities at night becomes much more difficult.
  3. Your eye’s lens appears darker with a hint of yellow or brown.
  4. Eyes become extremely sensitive to light.
  5. The clouded lens diffracts light entering the eye causing halo-like rings to surround the light source.
  6. Eyesight worsens rapidly and your prescription changes frequently.
  7. The yellow or brownish clumps of protein in your lens give everything a yellowish tint.
  8. Clouding of your eye causes double vision or diplopia.

How can I find out if I have cataracts?

If you notice any of the above symptoms, it is recommended that you make an eye exam appointment with your eye doctor immediately. If cataracts are diagnosed, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist, or an eye specialist who performs cataract surgery. Here are a few things you can do to prepare for your eye exam: 

  1. Write down a list of questions you want to ask your doctor. You might want to ask about surgery protocol, risks, timelines, and more.
  2. Make a list of all the medications you are taking. Be sure to include vitamins and supplements as well.
  3. Bring a family member or friend along to your appointment to take notes or keep track of questions.
  4. Make note of any life stressors or changes that could be impacting your health.
  5. Most importantly, be sure to write down all symptoms you’ve experienced and how long you’ve been experiencing them.

VSP Individual Vision Plans Can Help You Save on Vision Care

Care for your eyesight with comprehensive vision insurance coverage from VSP Individual Vision Plans. With annual plans starting as low as $13 per month, VSP Individual Vision Plans provide a Well Vision Exam each year and access to a vast network of eye doctors you can trust. Enrollment is open year-round, and you can choose a future effective date that works with your schedule. Sign up for a vision insurance plan online or learn more about eye insurance coverage today.

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