At Rancho Family Medical Group, we understand the importance of eye health and are committed to helping our patients maintain clear vision. Cataracts and glaucoma are two common eye disorders that can cause vision loss and affect your overall eye health. Understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options for both cataracts and glaucoma is essential for preserving your sight. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments of both cataracts and glaucoma. With this knowledge, you can be better prepared to protect your eye health and prevent vision loss. 

What is Glaucoma? 

Glaucoma is an eye condition caused by too much fluid pressure inside the eyeball. This fluid pressure can build up when either of the drainage mechanisms (the meshwork drainage field and the small opening) become blocked, leading to damage of fibers in the optic nerve which can cause a loss of vision. There are two types of glaucoma: open-angle and closed-angle. Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly, with gradual loss of vision, whereas closed-angle glaucoma can develop suddenly and is a dangerous health condition requiring immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of Glaucoma: 

  1. Loss of peripheral vision
  2. Intense eye pain 
  3. Firm feeling eyes when touched
  4. Red eyes 
  5. Nausea 
  6. Blurry vision 
  7. Halos of light around objects 

Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?

People over the age of 60, those with African American or Latino heritage, women, and those of Southeast Asian or Alaska Native descent are all more likely to develop glaucoma. Additionally, having an immediate family member with glaucoma puts you at a higher risk for developing it yourself. 

Diagnosis and treatment

If you believe you may have glaucoma, your doctor can diagnose it during a routine eye exam. This will involve using eye drops to dilate your pupil as well as testing the pressure in your eyes. If further information is needed, your doctor may also give you a scan of your eye. Treatment for glaucoma may include medicated eye drops or, in some cases, laser surgery or microsurgical techniques such as inserting small tubes and stents into the eye to help fluid flow out. This procedure is done while you are awake but numbed and sedated to keep you calm during the process.  

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts occur when the proteins inside the eye break down, forming clumps that cloud or distort vision. These cloudy, whitish, yellow, or brown deposits are known as cataracts, and they can cause a person to suffer from impaired vision. According to the National Eye Institute, over half of adults aged 80 and above in The United States have either been diagnosed with cataracts or have had them surgically removed. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in the world. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of cataracts can include blurred vision, double vision, poor night vision, extra sensitivity to light, pale or faded colors, and frequent changes in eyewear prescription. If the cataract is located on your lens, it may cause further difficulties with focusing or seeing details. You may also have difficulty driving at night or find it harder to read even with the help of bright light. 

Who is at Risk for Cataracts?

The most common cause of developing a cataract is natural changes in the eyes due to aging. At around 40 years of age, the number of people with cataracts is 2.5 percent, but by 75 it increases to 49 percent. Other risk factors include diabetes, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, long-term steroid use, excessive alcohol use and excessive sun exposure. In rare cases, cataracts can be present at birth due to an infection in the uterus or after an eye injury or surgery. If you feel like any of these risk factors apply to you, it is important for you to speak with your doctor about the potential risks of developing a cataract.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Cataracts

At Rancho Family Medical Group, our team can connect you with experienced eye doctors to diagnose cataracts with a simple dilation test during a routine eye exam. To do this, your doctor will place eye drops into your eyes to temporarily widen (dilate) the pupils, making it easier to spot any cataracts on your lens. Depending on the size of your cataracts, you may only need to change your prescription to address vision changes.

The most common treatment for cataracts is surgery. During this procedure, a surgeon will use an ultrasound device to break up the cloudy lens and replace it with a plastic artificial one, restoring vision. Depending on your specific condition, your doctor may also recommend other treatments such as eyeglasses, contact lenses or lifestyle changes. 

Prevention

You can help reduce your risk of developing cataracts by protecting your eyes from the sun with sunglasses, quitting smoking, eating foods that contain antioxidants for eye health, reducing your alcohol consumption, and taking care of your overall health through regular eye exams and following any treatment plans prescribed for conditions such as diabetes. By implementing these safeguards into your lifestyle, you can help lower your risk of developing cataracts. 

When to see a Doctor 

At Rancho Family Medical Group, we recommend that you get your eyes checked regularly to ensure early detection and treatment of cataracts and glaucoma. If you experience any sudden changes in your vision such as severe eye pain, nausea or vomiting, eye redness, or blurry vision, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. We are here to help you take care of your vision and protect your long-term eye health. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns. To get help becoming a patient or booking an appointment with Rancho Family Medical, call (951) 225-6808.