Do you have blurry, cloudy, or foggy vision? Have you started injuring yourself more due to impaired vision?
These are often signs of having cataracts. Cataracts are a prevalent age-related eye condition.
Most people only associate them with getting older. Although it’s true that cataracts usually develop due to aging, it’s not the only reason.
You can develop cataracts at any age, although it’s not as common. It’s far rarer to develop cataracts before turning 40.
Still, your risk of cataracts increases once you turn 40, which is far younger than you may expect. You can never be “too young” for cataracts.
That’s why you should know what cataracts are, when you’re at the highest risk for them, and what symptoms you should look out for. Being aware of cataracts and having regular eye exams will ensure that, if and when you develop cataracts, you can have them diagnosed and treated accordingly.
Keep reading to learn more about cataracts and why age will not prevent you from developing them!
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts occur when the natural lens in your eye becomes cloudy. The natural lens should be clear and easy to see through.
If the natural lens becomes cloudy, it’s called a cataract. Cataracts most commonly develop as a result of the aging process. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop and have cataracts.
Other Reasons Cataracts Develop
But cataracts can also develop for different reasons. They’re sometimes associated with medical conditions like diabetes.
They also may occur after healing from a traumatic eye injury. Other factors that may raise your risk for cataracts include tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and eye damage from frequent UV exposure.
Because of these risk factors, leading a healthy lifestyle is the best way to lower your cataract risk. However, there is no way to prevent cataracts.
Even if you’re in perfect health, you will likely develop them with age. But by leading a healthy lifestyle, you may be able to ensure that you don’t have cataracts until far later in life.
Average Age For Cataracts
You can technically develop cataracts at any time. While extremely rare, some people are even born with congenital cataracts.
But the majority of patients with cataracts are age-related. However, you only have to be 40 to see your risk of cataracts heighten and increase.
You may only associate cataracts with seniors in their sixties and seventies, but this is because cataracts usually take years and years to develop.
Most people with cataracts had them start forming in their forties or fifties. When you first have cataracts, you may not notice any changes in your vision or other symptoms.
However, as symptoms start showing, they may be hard to recognize since they occur gradually. Another reason you may not realize you have cataracts is that you may mistake them for presbyopia.
Presbyopia is another age-related eye condition. It occurs when the natural lens loses its flexibility, making it more challenging to see things up close.
Many people don’t know they have cataracts until they’ve developed to the point that they cause severe visual symptoms. But it’s best to have your cataracts diagnosed early.
Early diagnosis ensures your eye doctor can monitor their progress and recommend the appropriate treatment. The only way to have your cataracts diagnosed before you show any symptoms is to have regular eye exams.
Once you turn 40, you should plan to have an eye exam annually. But if you notice any cataract symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your eye doctor before your next routine exam.
The most common cataract symptoms include:
- Blurry vision
- Poor night vision
- Light sensitivity
- Decreased ability to see contrast
- Double vision in one eye
- Seeing things as muddier or brown
Double vision in one eye, also called monocular double vision, is a very early sign of cataracts that often appears before any other symptom. The rest of the symptoms tend to occur when your cataracts are more developed.
It’s common for cataract patients also to have some presbyopia, making it hard to see up close. Both conditions are typical in adults over the age of 40.
But when you have presbyopia, you may mistake cataract symptoms for symptoms of presbyopia. For example, having trouble seeing in low light can make reading hard.
It can also be hard to read if you have presbyopia because you have trouble seeing up close. But when you have cataracts, direct light can help you see what you’re reading more clearly.
You have to be careful when thinking about your cataract symptoms to differentiate them from presbyopia, primarily when consulting with your eye doctor. Your eye doctor will only recommend treatment for your cataracts once the symptoms are significant.
Treatment for Cataracts
The only way to treat cataracts is to have cataract surgery. Cataract surgery completely extracts your cataracts by removing the lens they’ve formed on.
The natural lens is then replaced with an artificial one, called an intraocular lens. The intraocular lens (IOL) helps you see clearly.
But cataract surgery is only recommended when your cataracts begin to affect your quality of life. They develop so slowly that you may not need surgery for years after their diagnosis.
It’s essential to have them diagnosed early and monitored, so you can tell your doctor when they’re interfering with your daily tasks.
No matter what your age, if you’re concerned about your cataracts or think you may be experiencing cataract-like symptoms, schedule an appointment at Traverse City Eye in Traverse City, MI. Isn’t it time to stop putting up with cataracts and start seeing clearly again?