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Detecting Eye Diseases and Conditions

Your Eyes and Cataracts

A cataract is an eye condition in which the eye's normally clear lens becomes cloudy. It eventually occurs in both eyes but may be more noticeable in one eye first. Since less light passes through a cloudy lens, vision blurs. Cataracts are small at first and may not affect vision. But the denser they grow, the more they affect your vision.

Most cataracts are due to aging. Other risk factors include:

  • Diseases, like diabetes
  • Eye injury or trauma
  • Eye surgery for another problem.
  • Inheritance or pregnancy-related causes (Babies can be born with cataracts or develop them in childhood.)
  • Overexposure of eyes to the sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications

Who's at Risk for Cataracts?

The risk increases with age. Other risk factors for cataracts include:

  • Environmental -- such as overexposure to sunlight
  • Lifestyle -- including smoking and alcohol use
  • People who have certain diseases -- including diabetes

Symptoms of Cataracts

The most common cataract symptoms include:

  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • "Faded" colors
  • Increased glare from headlights, lamps, or sunlight
  • Poor night vision
  • Multiple images in a single eye, or double vision
  • Frequent prescription changes for your eyeglasses or contact lenses

Treatment of Cataracts

For early cataracts, these steps may help:

  • Getting a new eyeglass or contact lens prescription
  • Using brighter lighting
  • Using magnifying lenses
  • Wearing sunglasses

If cataracts interfere with everyday activities, your doctor will probably recommend surgery. Surgical cataract removal is one of the most common, safest, and most effective types of surgery done in the U.S. Delaying cataract surgery until it interferes with your quality of life is appropriate and won't harm your eyes.

If you choose surgery, you'll be referred to an ophthalmologist who can perform the surgery, if you don't already have one. During the procedure, the eye surgeon removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial clear lens. If both eyes need cataract surgery, one eye will be done at a time with a month or two between procedures. 

Ways to Prevent Cataracts

You may help delay cataract development by: avoiding overexposure to sunlight -- wear sunglasses with ultraviolet protection and a wide-brimmed hat.

Diabetic Eye Disease

People with diabetes are at risk for developing several eye diseases:

  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease in people with diabetes. It affects over 5 million Americans aged 18 and older. Usually both eyes develop the disease. Diabetic retinopathy progresses in four stages. The most severe is proliferative retinopathy.

Damaged blood vessels due to diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss and blindness two ways: 

  1. Fluid leaks into the center of the retina, called the macula. This area of the retina is where central vision takes place. The fluid causes the macula to swell, blurring vision.
  2. In proliferative retinopathy, new and abnormal blood vessels grow. These vessels blur vision by leaking blood into the center of the eye and causing scar tissue, and that can lead to retinal detachment.

WebMD Medical Reference

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