October 1, 2004.
By Kevin Scripture, M.D.
Modern Lifestyles Magazine.
If you’re age 60 or over, the chances are approximately three in five that you are experiencing some of the symptoms of cataracts. A cataract refers to a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Because cataracts form gradually – often over years – the symptoms are often difficult to spot. Take a few moments to see if any of the following symptoms are familiar to you.
Sensitivity to glare: the inability of your eyes to adjust to excessive light as well as they may have when you were younger is an early sign of cataracts.
Perhaps you’ve noticed increasing difficulty when driving toward the sun, find it harder to see traffic lights against a bright sky, or find it takes longer for your vision to return to normal after passing an oncoming set of bright headlights.
Headaches, eye fatigue, burning and watering of the eyes when exposed to bright light – even though your visual acuity remains essentially unchanged – are also symptoms to look for.
Difficulty reading: because the cloudy lens allows less light to reach the retina, vision in general and reading vision in particular, is often fuzzy and indistinct through the affected eye.
You may experience the symptoms as an inability to read small print in telephone books or on medicine labels, or you may notice that reading the menu or the bill in dim restaurants has become a difficult chore.
You may also find that reading in bright light is more annoying, because the glare of light reflected from the page may make your eyes burn.
Loss of color perception: when the once crystal-clear natural lens becomes yellow or brown with age, it greatly decreases your ability to distinguish colors at the blue or violet end of the spectrum.
After replacement with a clear artificial lens, many notice a new-found appreciation of blues – a once muddy looking sky may now be vibrant.
Loss of depth perception: the ability to see in three dimensions requires good vision from both eyes. If you find that you have difficulty judging distances – if reach for a glass and it’s farther away than you thought, for example – it may signal a visual impairment in one eye.
You may discover the other depth perception problems while driving – gauging the distance to the car in front of you may be harder, or you may find you run up on the curb when parking.
Night blindness: because less light gets through the lens, a cataract may be most apparent at low light levels. This may become unmistakable when trying to drive at night. If you feel less sure about driving after dark, it’s time to call your doctor for an appointment.
Second sight: as some adults pass age 50, they suddenly experience the ability to read without their glasses or bifocals.
Although this “second sight” may seem an improvement, it is actually a signal that the lens is turning hard and brittle. As the lens hardens, it sometimes bends light rays so that close objects can be seen without glasses.
If it is determined that you have cataracts, you may schedule surgery to have them removed by one of three surgeons who specialize in cataract surgery. A small incision is made to remove the clouded lens. A new artificial lens specially prescribed for your eye is inserted into its place. A surgical microscope aids the surgeon in removing the cataract and in placing the new lens within the eye.
Although surgery time may vary, surgery usually takes from twenty to thirty minutes. Cataract surgery is done on an outpatient basis right here in Richmond Eye Center’s state-of-the-art surgery center, and no stitches are required.
If you believe that cataracts are clouding your vision, call Richmond Eye Center at 966-1945 or 1-800-433-9170 today to schedule a complete eye examination.
Copyright ©2004 Palladium-Item.
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