Through the Fog

On a foggy day, the car windows often look murky. It does not matter how hard the wipers work to clear the vision field; it remains cloudy. The world looks this way through the eyes of a person afflicted with cataracts.

If left untreated, it can lead to complete loss of vision. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. Although the condition is very common in America, total blindness from cataracts is rare here because treatment is so readily available. Cataracts cloud the lens of the eye.

Normally, light passes through the lens on its way to the retina. The retina then sends signals to the brain. In order for the retina to send clear, sharp signals, the lens must be clear. In cataracts, the clouded lens restricts the amount of light sent to the retina and results in a fuzzy image.

If you have cataracts, your first symptom may be awareness that you can no longer drive safely at night because of glare from oncoming car lights. Seeing double is another symptom. You may find yourself going in for frequent changes to your eyewear prescription in order to see better.

The progression of the condition varies and not every case is the same. When symptoms reach the point that vision is impaired, corrective action can be taken. Diagnosis is simple and begins with a comprehensive eye exam. The visual acuity test is a routine eye exam that determines how well you can see from a distance of 20 feet.

A dilated eye exam allows the practitioner to observe the retina and optic nerve. The tonometry test is a painless process of measuring the pressure inside the eye. These objective methods will determine if cataracts are present and the extent of the condition.

The natural aging process causes many cases of cataracts; but not every senior citizen is plagued with this condition. Prolonged exposure to sunlight without protective eyewear is another risk factor in addition to aging. Some diseases such as diabetes can be a causative factor.

Treatment, depending on the degree cataracts have progressed is effective. Early cataracts may only call for a different prescription for your eyewear. Increasing the wattage of your lighting helps also. If the cataract starts to interfere seriously with your vision, you and your eye health
specialists may decide that surgery is necessary. Surgery for cataracts is very common and usually very safe. Cataracts need not lead to blindness. It is a condition that can be managed.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute medical advice. Consult with your physician for questions regarding this topic.

— Written By Betty Tryon, R. N.