Cloudy Vision? Could Be a Cataract!

by | Feb 28, 2018

When an eye problem is affecting your vision or causing other symptoms, you should have an understanding as to what is happening. More than that, you will want to know what can be done about it. Even more important, though, is being able to recognize the fact a problem is developing. Being able to do so enables you to seek help at the earliest possible opportunity. This can be a bit tricky with some medical conditions, like a cataract – which typically develops slowly and doesn’t disturb your eyesight in early stages. Over time, though, you will begin to experience symptoms of a cataract, like clouded vision and difficulty reading, driving (particularly at night), and seeing people’s expressions. If a cataract has become apparent, come see our team at Sight Eye Clinic for the professional treatment you need!

Cataract Symptoms and Development

Essentially, a cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. The clouding is the result of changes to the tissue making up your eye’s lens. As noted, the clouding causes difficulty in many different ways. If it helps, you can think of this as trying to view through a fogged-up or frosty window when you need to see clearly. Other symptoms you may experience include:
  • Increasing difficulty with vision at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
  • Seeing “halos” around lights
  • Needing brighter light for reading and other activities
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Double vision in a single eye
A cataract might only affect a small part of the eye’s lens at first – thereby rendering you unaware of vision loss. You may have some cloudiness in your vision, but perhaps not enough to normally warrant a visit to our office. As a cataract becomes larger, however, symptoms will become more noticeable and you will find additionally clouding and light distortion. Most cataracts are related to aging and the condition tends to be quite common in the older population. In fact, over half of all Americans will either have a cataract or had treatment for one by the age of 80! When age is not the core issue, other potential causes include injuries, genetic disorders, previous eye surgeries, long-term use of steroid medications, and medical conditions like diabetes. You can develop a cataract in either or both eyes, but it will not spread from one eye to the other (the way some medical issues spread from one area to another). Whereas you might have a cataract in only one eye, it is more common for them to develop in both. That said, the development can be rather uneven. As you might expect, this variance can result in a difference in vision strength and clarity between both eyes.

Cataract Treatment – Knowing When to Seek It and What Can Be Done

As should always be the case, contact our office for an eye exam if you start to have changes in your vision – and especially if this happens suddenly or you start to have double vision, sudden eye pain, or sudden headaches (related to this matter). Experiencing sudden flashes of light is another sign it’s time to see an eye doctor. To determine if you have a cataract, we will start by reviewing your medical history and symptoms. Then we will perform an eye examination, which can include any or all the following; visual acuity tests, a slit-lamp examination, and retina exams. In the initial stages, eyeglasses and stronger lighting may be able to help you deal with this problem. Cataract surgery is likely needed if the impaired vision interferes with your normal activities or is impairing your quality of life. We can discuss your treatment options—conservative and surgical—together and determine the best course forward. When we do, we will assess factors like severity of symptom and lifestyle choices and goals.

eye examinations

Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery entails removing the clouded lens and then replacing it with a clear, artificial lens. This new lens, called an intraocular lens, is positioned in the same place as your natural lens and remains a permanent part of your eye following the procedure Rarely other eye problems prohibit the use of an artificial lens. In this situation, once the cataract is removed, vision may be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Cataract surgery is generally done on an outpatient basis, which means you won’t need to stay in a hospital after the surgery. We will use a topical anesthetic with I.V. sedation to control any discomfort during the procedure. Cataract surgery is safe, but as with any surgical procedure, it can come with a certain degree of risk. In this case, there might be infection or bleeding. Further, cataract surgery does increase the risk—even if only slightly—for retinal detachment. Cataract surgery is still the safest and most frequently performed surgery there is. After the procedure, you may have some mild irritation for a few days. Healing generally occurs within several weeks. If a patient requires spectacle correction after surgery, glasses can be prescribed 3-4 weeks after surgery. If you need cataract surgery in both eyes, we will schedule your surgery to remove the cataract in the second eye about one week after the first eye in most cases.

A Closer Look at Why Cataracts Form

Your eye’s lens is positioned behind the iris (the colored part of your eye). This is where the cataract forms, and it is also the part of the eye responsible for focusing light as it passes through it. As the light is focused, it produces clear, sharp images on your retina. The retina acts like the film in an old-school camera, recording the image so it can ultimately be processed in your brain. Over time, our lenses thicken and become less transparent and flexible. Aging (and certain medical conditions) causes tissues within the lens to break down – as happens with many body tissues. In doing so, the lens fibers become disorganized. This is responsible for the clouding.

The Different Types of Cataracts

Whereas they have definite similarities, there are different kinds of cataracts, including:
  • Cataracts affecting the center of the lens (nuclear cataracts). In this variation, there may be more nearsightedness or even a temporary improvement in reading vision at first. At the risk of being a downer, you should temper any excitement at the improvement because the lens will start to turn yellow and cloud your vision.
As this kind of cataract progresses, the lens becomes more and more yellow (if left untreated becoming brown) and can cause difficulty distinguishing between shades of color.
  • Cataracts that affect the edges of the lens (cortical cataracts). These cataracts begin as streaks on the outer edge of the lens cortex or as wedge-shaped, whitish opacities. In time, the streaks extend to the center of the lens and begin interfering with light as it passes through.
  • Cataracts that affect the back of the lens (posterior subcapsular cataracts). Posterior subcapsular cataracts form near the back of the lens—right in the path of light—as small, opaque areas. These frequently cause glare or halos around lights at night, reduce vision in bright light, and interfere with reading vision. Also, this particular type of cataract tends to progress more rapidly than the other ones.
  • Cataracts you’re born with (congenital cataracts). In certain cases, cataracts are something people have at birth or develop in childhood. Usually, these are genetic, but they can also be associated with physical trauma or an intrauterine infection. Other potential causes include galactosemia, myotonic dystrophy, neurofibromatosis type 2, or rubella. Not all cases affect vision, although this can happen over time when left untreated.

Cataract Diagnosis and Treatment in West Michigan

Sight Eye Clinic provides complete eye care services, including diagnosing and treating cataracts. If your vision has become cloudy in either (or both!) of your eyes, contact our Zeeland office and request an appointment. Our doctors can diagnose the problem—to make sure it is actually a cataract—and then create an appropriate treatment plan to resolve it for you, so call us today at (616) 772-2020 or connect with us online right now.