Do Cataracts Mean I Am Inevitably Going To Be Blind?
Cataracts can impair your vision and if left untreated can cause permanent vision loss or even blindness. Although there are many causes of blindness that are not treatable, cataracts are not one of them. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness among older adults in the United States and account for 50% of blindness worldwide. Although significant progress has been made toward identifying risk factors for cataracts, there is no proven primary prevention or medical treatment. Surgical removal of cataract remains the only treatment option to preserve vision.
Usually due to age and sometimes injury, cataracts develop as tissues in the lens of the eye change. Proteins and fibers in the lens begin to break down causing blurry or cloudy vision. For the eyes to see at their best, the lens needs to remain clear for light to pass through to the retina. The retina is then responsible for transmitting those images to the brain to interpret what you see. When this build-up of protein occurs it produces a deposit, known as a cataract, that disrupts normal vision.
Cataracts develop very slowly in four stages: early, immature, mature, and hyper-mature. With an early, or stage 1 cataract, early warning signs include mild blurring, increased eye strain, light sensitivity, and glare from lights. With an immature, or stage 2 cataract, the lens becomes slightly opaque with continued blurred vision as well as dimmed vision and possibly double vision. You will be aware of the cataract by stage 2 not only to increase vision changes but with the physical change in color on your eye. Progression of an immature cataract can take several years. By stage 3, or mature cataract, most people will begin to discuss surgery options with their ophthalmologist as the opaqueness of the cataract will have turned to either a white or amber color, significantly affecting vision and restricting the ability to participate in daily activities and maintaining quality of life. Cataract surgery is very common and has a high success rate. By stage 4, or a hyper-mature cataract development, the cataract will have hardened, making it more difficult, yet still possible to remove.
Because cataracts develop gradually with a significant increase to symptoms in each stage, you will likely be able to correct and preserve vision with cataract surgery and will not inevitably go blind. As with any condition related to the eyes, early treatment is key. In the early stages, cataracts can be treated with prescription glasses and by the mature stage of the cataract, surgical correction options will be discussed by your doctor.
If you have recently been diagnosed with cataracts or are concerned about cataract development, talk to one of our doctors about treatment options to avoid blindness or any unnecessary disruption to your vision.