Cataracts: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Light sensitivity, blurred vision, and double vision resulting from cataracts can interfere with your daily life and make several activities more difficult.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens. At the Arizona Eye Institute & Cosmetic Laser Center in Phoenix, AZ, Dr. Emilio Justo can diagnose and treat cataracts to restore your quality of life.
How do you know if you have a cataract?
Increasingly Blurry Vision
As the cataract spreads on your lens, your vision will become more and more blurry. Patients with cataracts may also notice double vision in a single eye, though this issue tends to dissipate as the cataract grows.
Changes in Vision Quality
Cataracts impact several aspects of vision. Colors may begin to appear faded or dull. You may notice increased glare or halos around lights. It is also common for patients to develop light sensitivity or have trouble seeing at night.
Frequent Prescription Changes
Cataracts are a progressive condition. The larger the cataract grows, the more vision issues develop. You may need to repeatedly update your prescription to accommodate vision loss.
Let's explore what a cataract is...
A Closer Look at Cataracts
The crystalline lens of your eye lies behind the iris (the colored part) and focuses light onto the retina - a membrane located at the back of your eye that captures and records images like camera film. Cataracts are characterized by the clouding of the crystalline lens, obstructing the light entering the eye.
Understanding Your Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of cataracts can vary dramatically between patients. One of the first indicators of age-related cataracts is a loss of clarity when reading street signs, or print on the television. The appearance of glare, halos, or starbursts around streetlights and oncoming headlights when driving at night are common symptoms of faster-growing subcapsular cataracts.
If you have noticed cataract symptoms, contact our office immediately to undergo a thorough eye examination.
If you have not already been tested, early diagnosis allows Dr. Justo to carefully monitor your condition, and discuss appropriate treatment options as cataracts progress. Cataracts develop over a number of years, and constant monitoring can guard against irreversible damage or complications.
Wondering whether you are at risk for cataracts?
Certain Lifestyle Factors Increase the Risk of Cataracts
There are a variety of medical conditions and lifestyle choices which can make you more likely to develop cataracts.
Some common risk factors include:
- Severe nearsightedness (myopia)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation
- Long-term corticosteroid use
- Previous eye surgery or injuries
- A family history of cataracts
So what actually causes a cataract to form?
The Most Common Cause of Cataracts Is Natural Aging
The natural aging process is usually to blame for the development of cataracts. However, injury, disease, use of steroids, and genetic predisposition can also lead to cataracts. Dr. Justo has been diagnosing cataracts at Arizona Eye Institute & Cosmetic Laser Center for many years and can identify the cause as well as the best treatment for your cataracts.
Potential causes of cataracts include:
As your eyes age, the lenses lose their flexibility and become thicker and less transparent. The lens tissues break down, and its proteins cluster together to create a clouding effect.
Exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) radiation can overcome the natural defenses of your eye, which are designed to protect your vision, and eventually lead to cataracts.
Long-term use of corticosteroids has been classified as a leading cause of cataracts. Studies show that other medications used to treat skin disorders such as psoriasis, psychosis, and glaucoma may be contributing to the development of cataracts.
Diabetes and Other Diseases
Patients with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts. Glaucoma and the surgeries and medications used to treat it can significantly increase your chances of developing cataracts. Uveitis is a rare condition that carries a high risk of cataracts.
Blunt-force trauma, or a penetrating injury to the eye, can increase your risk for cataracts. Traumatic cataracts can be particularly challenging to treat, but detailed examinations and a carefully managed treatment plan can lead to excellent results.
Wondering whether you need treatment?
How do we find out if you have the condition?
Regular checkups with your eye doctor are as important to your health as annual physicals and routine dental cleanings. By coming in to see Dr. Justo once a year for an examination, you are giving us a chance to detect any changes in your ocular health before they become more severe.
With some of the best techniques and technologies available today, our team of specialists can assess your symptoms quickly, and formulate a treatment plan that addresses your needs. Dr. Justo has many years of experience diagnosing cataracts.
What to Expect during Your Appointment
Visual Acuity Test
The visual acuity test is one of the most easily recognizable tests in the eye care field. The visual acuity test consists of a big poster of letters in various sizes. Designed to measure the strength of one eye at a time, this test helps Dr. Justo recognize inconsistencies in your vision and determine whether you have cataracts.
The slit lamp is a tool that illuminates your cornea, iris, and lens with intense light. Dr. Justo uses this light to examine the small structures of your eye and detect even the smallest abnormalities that may be signs of cataracts.
Similar to a visual acuity test, this test gauges your capacity to perceive contrast in spite of your cataracts. Contrast sensitivity is often considered a more realistic measurement of vision quality.
Pupil dilation is a very common test, used during annual eye examinations as well as for cataract diagnosis. Until cataracts reach a more advanced stage, the clouding of your lens is not immediately noticeable. Dr. Justo will dilate your pupils using drops that cause the iris to widen, granting him a clear view of the back of your eye.
There are various types of cataracts, and not all are caused by the natural aging process. Health problems such as diabetes, traumatic injury, and long-term use of corticosteroids are some of the common sources of cataract development. The diagnostic process for these types of cataracts may vary. In certain cases, children can be born with congenital cataracts; if your child seems to be having difficulties with his or her vision, we advise you bring them in for an evaluation.
At Arizona Eye Institute & Cosmetic Laser Center, we pride ourselves on our personalized approach to each patient's treatment. By spending quality time with you during a one-on-one consultation, Dr. Justo can ensure that your care is tailored to your needs. Between diagnostic and pre-operative testing, you can rest assured that you will be well-informed and prepared by the time your cataract surgery is scheduled.
While cataracts cannot be prevented, you can reduce your risk...
Avoid Smoking and Drinking in Excess
Studies show that the more you drink or smoke in excess, the greater your chances of developing cataracts.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Consuming foods rich in vitamins and minerals, especially antioxidants, can help prevent certain eye diseases.
Minimize UV Exposure
Since UV light can increase your risk of cataracts, using proper eye protection can minimize issues.
Wondering what steps to take right now?
A lifetime of healthy vision is the best way to ensure long-term superior quality of life, and scheduling annual eye exams is the only way to make that happen. Cataract surgery is common, safe, and can be individualized to your needs and your desired vision results. Founder & Medical Director Emilio M. Justo, M.D.
Surgery Is the Only Way to Completely Eliminate Cataracts
While there are some steps you can take to manage your symptoms, the only way to truly restore your vision is to replace the clouded lens.
During cataract surgery, the clouded lens of your eye will be removed and replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL), a synthetic crystalline lens. We are equipped to help you achieve clear vision no matter what development stage your cataracts have reached.
How Much Does Cataract Surgery Cost?
The procedure is typically covered by insurance or Medicare. If neither is available to you, we also accept financing through CareCredti®. Personalized aspects of your procedure and certain characteristics of your practitioner may affect your overall cost.
Factors That May Not Be Covered by Insurance
If you choose to receive a premium IOL, it will increase the cost of your procedure. However, monofocal IOLs are covered by insurance.
Your procedure will be performed at our state-of-the-art surgical facility. As such, you receive the highest level of care by Dr. Justo and his team.
We use the latest technology to diagnose your condition as well as plan and perform your treatment for increased precision and reduced risk of complications.
Financing Is Available
To manage your out-of-pocket expenses, you can apply for CareCredit financing. Financing makes treatment more affordable for patients who wish to receive premium IOLs or cannot pay in full right away. CareCredit allows you to make monthly payments with low interest rates. It is our hope that this can help prevent the need to postpone surgery and ensure you receive the care you need in a timely manner.
Not ready for surgery?
There Are Methods Other for Managing Your Symptoms
Sight is a precious asset. Unfortunately, vision loss and impairment are facts of life. In some cases, patients can achieve clear vision in spite of cataract symptoms by making changes to their day-to-day life.
Some methods for managing cataract symptoms include:
Updating your glasses or contacts prescription can help you see more clearly. However, without surgery, your vision will continue to deteriorate.
Cataracts make it very difficult to see clearly without sufficient light. Improving the lighting in your home or office can make daily tasks easier.
Another method you can adopt is carrying magnifying glasses or using anti-glare sunglasses. These types of lenses can compensate for some of the symptoms of cataracts.
Listen to Frances' experience at our practice...
Video: Frances after Cataract Surgery
Individualized Treatment Plans
Each member of our team is handpicked for their training and education, and their compassionate approach to care. We focus on patient education, and work cooperatively with our patients to develop realistic expectations. We understand no two eyes are alike, and create truly personalized treatment plans to meet your unique healthcare needs.
Candidacy for Cataract Surgery
Deciding when surgery is right for you is a highly personal choice. In its earliest stages, the effects of cataracts can be offset using conservative treatment methods, like strengthening your glasses or contact lens prescription. Most of our patients begin seriously considering surgery when vision loss impairs their ability to comfortably or safely perform everyday activities, like driving at night.
You are most likely a good candidate for cataract surgery if you:
- Have been diagnosed with cataracts
- Experience moderate to severe visual impairment that is unresponsive to previously recommended treatment
- Have no additional pre-existing eye disorders or diseases, like macular degeneration
- Are in good general health
During an examination with Dr. Justo, you can learn more about whether you are suitable for this safe, effective procedure.