Cataracts are a common eye condition as people age. At Northwest Hills Eye Care in Austin, TX, our optometrists can detect cataracts and suggest appropriate treatment options to help prevent vision loss. Should surgery be required, we will refer you to a reputable ophthalmologist and offer pre- and post-operative care.

Understanding cataracts

A cataract is a cloudy region that develops on the eye’s clear lens. It forms when proteins within the eye break down and clump together, making it difficult for light to pass through the lens. As the cataract progresses, more of the lens becomes cloudy. Although cataracts are typically associated with aging, they can also develop due to injury or certain medical conditions such as diabetes.

Risk factors for cataracts

The primary risk factor for cataracts is age. Once an individual reaches 60 years or older, their likelihood of developing cataracts increases significantly. Individuals over 55 may need a dilated eye exam to check for cataracts.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Family history of cataracts
  • Medical conditions like diabetes and glaucoma
  • Smoking
  • Prior eye injury or surgery
  • Certain medications, such as steroids
  • Nutritional deficiencies, particularly a lack of antioxidants
  • Extended exposure to UV rays without proper eye protection

Symptoms of cataracts

Cataracts usually develop slowly over time. Indicators of cataracts include blurry vision, light sensitivity, night vision difficulties, halos around lights, diminished color intensity, and frequent eyeglass prescription changes. Those with cataracts may also struggle to read small print on menus or other materials. If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule a comprehensive eye exam immediately to prevent severe vision loss.

Diagnosing cataracts

At Northwest Hills Eye Care in Austin, TX, our optometrists can identify cataracts and other eye diseases during an eye exam. Your eye doctor will conduct various tests to evaluate your overall eye health, including a slit lamp exam, which uses a low-power microscope to look for cataract development and other disease indicators. Your doctor may also check the pressure within each eye and test your color vision and light sensitivity.

Treatment for cataracts

Cataract treatment will depend on the extent of vision impairment they cause. If cataracts minimally impact your vision, no treatment may be necessary. Your doctor may suggest monitoring for increased symptoms and recommend regular comprehensive eye exams to track any worsening. In some instances, adjusting your eyeglass prescription may temporarily improve your vision.

Surgery is not immediately necessary. The decision to undergo surgery depends on how your vision affects your safety, independence, and ability to read computer screens, books, or watch television.

If cataracts significantly impact your daily tasks, surgery is the only viable solution. We will assess your preparedness for surgery and recommend a reputable ophthalmologist. During the procedure, your ophthalmologist will remove your current lens and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). You can expect your vision to improve within days or weeks after cataract surgery. Your optometrist at Northwest Hills Eye Care will arrange follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and recovery.

Preventing cataracts

Although there is no surefire way to prevent cataracts, you can take measures to reduce your risk. These steps include wearing sunglasses with UV protection outdoors, consuming a diet rich in antioxidants, quitting smoking if applicable, and exercising regularly. You can also minimize your risk by managing existing conditions like diabetes and wearing protective eyewear during sports or other potentially hazardous activities.

Our eye care experts are experienced in diagnosing cataracts and providing pre-and post-operative care for cataract surgery. If you are concerned about cataracts, call us today to schedule your eye exam at our office in Austin.