Understanding Cataract Progression

Cataracts are an incredibly common eye condition, particularly as people get older. Often, the disease progresses slowly, giving those with cataracts time to determine which course of action is best for their needs. However, there are times when cataracts can advance quickly, particularly if they’re related to an injury, illness, certain genetic conditions, environmental factors, or if they begin forming early.  

However, even if symptoms aren’t worsening quickly, that doesn’t mean treatment isn’t a necessity. If left unaddressed, cataracts can cause severe vision issues and even blindness.  

By understanding how cataracts progress, you can ensure that you receive treatment properly. Here’s an overview of the early- and late-stage symptoms, as well as guidance on when to seek treatment.  

Early-Stage Cataract Symptoms  

During the early stage of the condition, cataracts themselves tend to be small, limiting their impact on vision. Some of the more common symptoms of this stage include:  

  • Blurriness  
  • Cloudy vision  
  • Color perception changes, including dulling or the appearance that everything is covered in a yellow tint  
  • Double vision  
  • Halos  
  • Reduced night vision  
  • Light sensitivity  
  • Contrast reductions  

Needing to update your glasses or contacts prescription more frequently could also be a sign of cataracts. The same goes for requiring increasingly strong reading glasses.  

Late-Stage Cataract Symptoms  

As cataracts progress, their impact on vision is more significant. Additionally, they can cause the eye itself to turn milky white.  

Here is an overview of late-stage cataract symptoms:  

  • Milky white spot on the lens  
  • Reading difficulties  
  • Significantly decreased visual acuity  
  • Clouding over the entire lens  

When cataracts progress, the alterations to your visual capabilities have a greater impact on your daily life. You may lack the ability to see well enough to accomplish specific tasks, reducing your overall quality of life.  

When to Seek Treatment  

Generally speaking, cataracts become more challenging to treat as the condition progresses. While immediate intervention during the earliest stages may not be necessary, monitoring the cataracts’ progress is essential. That way, they can be appropriately treated once they advance to a critical point or begin having a notable impact on your quality of life.  

Delaying cataract treatment does come with risks. It can lead to significant vision loss and may cause blindness. Alterations to the lens create an increasingly dramatic colorcast over your visual field, making everything seem increasingly yellow or brown.  

Ideally, you want to work closely with your eye care provider. By keeping regular appointments, any signs of cataracts can be caught early. Then, they can track the condition’s progression, ensuring treatment can occur at the proper time. That way, the odds of permanent damage are substantially reduced, allowing you to maintain your vision long-term.  

At ECVA, the safety and health of our patient’s eyes are our priority. If you have signs or symptoms of cataracts, want to learn more about the severity of your condition, are exploring treatment options, or simply haven’t seen your eye care provider in the past year, we are here to help. Schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.  

AMD Awareness – Age-Related Macular Degeneration

February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Month, a time where we share information about this devastating condition. Along with outlining what you need to know about AMD, our goal is to ensure that patients learn about actions to slow the condition and preserve their vision. With that in mind, here’s a look at what AMD is and what you can do about it.  

What Is AMD?  

AMD is a condition that impacts the retina and can cause central vision loss. While a person with AMD can see normally with their peripheral vision, they won’t be able to distinguish fine details when an item is directly in front of them, regardless of the distance.  

There are two main forms of AMD. The dry type involves drusen (a yellow deposit) collecting in the macula. As the drusen increase in size or number, they lead to vision distortions. As the condition progresses, cells in the macula thin, causing worsening vision. In time, those cells die, harming visual acuity even further and potentially leading to blind spots.  

With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessel activity underneath the macula causes visual distortions. Leading vessels introduce fluid into the retina, which can cause straight lines to look wavy. In time, the leaks lead to scarring, resulting in permanent central vision loss.  

Both types have similar symptoms. Along with worsening vision, there can be blurriness or distortions. Dark spots in your central visual field can also occur, and, in some cases, color perception may be altered.  

AMD is a progressive condition in many cases, leading to more severe vision loss over time. In fact, it’s the leading cause of significant, permanent vision loss in individuals over the age of 60.  

Treating AMD  

There isn’t a cure for AMD. However, the right treatments can slow the condition’s progression, keeping as much of your central vision intact as possible. Which approaches are best can depend on the type of AMD involved and the severity of the condition.  

With wet AMD, anti-angiogenesis medications may be used since they can block blood vessel growth and prevent leaking. Laser therapy can also address abnormal blood vessel activity.  

For those with dry AMD, there are fewer options available. Working with a low-vision rehabilitation specialist may help you adapt to any central vision loss, allowing you to live as normally as possible. In severe cases, a telescopic lens implant may be considered.  

Some studies indicate that certain supplements may slow the progression of dry AMD, including copper, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, and zinc. However, that approach isn’t appropriate for everyone, so you’ll need to consult with a medical professional before beginning a new regimen.  

In either case, seeing your eye doctor is essential. That way, they can monitor your condition and create a treatment plan based on your specific needs.  

At ECVA, the safety and health of our patient’s eyes are our priority. If you have signs or symptoms of AMD, want to explore AMD treatment or management strategies, or simply haven’t seen your eye care provider recently, we are here to help. Schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.