How Quickly Do Cataracts Develop?
You may have friends who are age 60 who are already getting cataract surgery, and you may know people who are over 80 who have cataracts, but haven’t yet had surgery because the cataracts are not causing vision problems. This wide disparity may have caused you to ask yourself this question: “How quickly do cataracts develop?”
First, it is important to know that the overwhelming majority of cataracts are age-related. If you are over age 55, you have most likely started developing cataracts. Natural proteins in the eye begin to break down with age, clumping together to cloud the eye lens. In normal eye function, the lens focuses light on the retina, but the cataract can skew or even prevent light from focusing because the clumps of proteins cause the light to scatter.
Cataracts Are Gradual
In general, cataracts develop very slowly. At first, patients have no symptoms. However, as the cataract grows in size, you may experience hazy, blurred vision and colors may appear dull and less intense. You may experience increased sensitivity to daylight and have trouble seeing at night. As your cataracts get progressively worse, you will most likely experience more frequent changes in your vision correction prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. Vision changes are usually very gradual over a period of years, so changing your prescription can get you by for quite a while when you have a cataract.
Eventually, you will need surgery to correct the cataract, when it begins significantly interfering with your vision. Surgery is the only real treatment for cataracts. No treatment strategies exist to slow down the progression or to prevent cataracts.
Who Is Prone to Cataracts?
The biggest risk factor for developing cataracts is age, but people with certain chronic diseases like diabetes are more prone to developing them. Certain medications like corticosteroids can speed up cataract development. Lifestyle choices like high alcohol consumption or smoking can also accelerate development.
There are some things you can do to protect yourself from cataracts or slow the progression:
- Wear sunglasses to reduce UV exposure to your eyes
- Quit smoking.
- Nutrition is a key factor. Antioxidant intake is very important, so be sure to eat lots of leafy greens.
- Take eye nutritional supplements that contain important eye nutrients like vitamins E and C, zinc and lutein and zeaxanthin. Some research suggests that low levels of antioxidants like vitamins C and E are associated with cataract formation.
If you suspect you have cataracts, come see our specialists at Elmquist Eye Group. We will do a thorough comprehensive patient history and eye exam to determine whether you have cataracts. We will perform visual acuity measurements to quantify how much your cataract is interfering with your vision, and also do refractive measurement to determine the vision correction prescription you need. We also might need to do additional tests to determine whether you have other eye diseases. Using all of this information, our Elmquist team will determine whether you are a good candidate for cataract surgery.
If your cataract is in the early stages, no treatment may be needed. Instead, we will recommend regular eye exams so that we can monitor the progression. In some cases, we may be able to give you a new eyeglasses or contact prescription to temporarily improve your vision, but when the cataract begins to significantly impair your vision, surgery is recommended.
Cataract surgery involves removing your cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial implanted lens to significantly improve vision. The surgery is done as an outpatient procedure and is one of the safest and most effective surgeries performed today. If you know or suspect you have cataracts that developed quickly, give Elmquist Eye Group a call today.