How are cataracts diagnosed and treated?

Aging and certain disease conditions such as diabetes can cause the lens to become cloudy. Although clouding usually occurs slowly, with the passage of time, vision may decrease and become blurred. You may not see colors vividly, you may have difficulty reading, and you may be bothered by glare during the day or night.

In addition to a complete medical history and eye examination, diagnostic procedures for cataracts may include:

  • Visual acuity test - the common eye chart test which measures vision ability at various distances.
  • Pupil dilation - the pupil is widened with eye drops to allow a close-up examination of the eye's retina.
  • Other tests may also be performed to help your eye care professional learn more about the health and structure of your eye.

Cataracts cannot be treated with lasers or medication; surgery is the only treatment option. Fortunately, cataract surgery is one of the most common and reliable types of ophthalmologic procedures and is now safer than ever before. Each year, more than a million people in the United States have their vision improved through cataract surgery.

Specific treatment for cataracts will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

In its early stages, vision loss caused by a cataract may be aided with the use of different eyeglasses, a magnifying glass, or stronger lighting. When these measures are no longer helpful, surgery is the only effective treatment available, for most individuals. It is important to note that a cataract only needs to be removed when vision loss interferes with everyday activities such as driving, reading, or watching television. You and your doctor can make that decision together.

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