Let all beware, it’s the cataracts, and no we’re not talking about the popular dance group that keeps teens bumping in the night, rather a rising health concern for all Americans especially those 80 years and older. A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye and are common as you get older. In fact, more than half of all Americans over the age of 80 either have cataracts or have had surgery to get rid of cataracts.
Cataracts are quite often to spot at first, but over time cataracts can affect your vision by making it blurry, hazy or less colorful. This may impact your ability to read and doing other daily activities such as driving or in general knowing where you’re going. Thanks to modern medicine however, most cataracts can be cured through cataract surgery which is safe and conducted on millions of patients every year.
What Are the Types of Cataracts?
Cataracts are typically age-related meaning they happen because of normal changes in your eyes as you get older. However, there are other reasons that cataracts may occur — for example, after an eye injury or after surgery for another eye problem like glaucoma.
What Are Symptoms of Cataracts?
Cataracts may not have any symptoms at first – in fact, most people don’t know they have cataracts until they experience a noticeable difference in their eyesight. If you have any of the following symptoms you may be developing a cataract and should get it checked:
- Your vision is cloudy or blurry
- Colors look faded
- You can’t see well at night
- Lamps, sunlight, or headlights seem too bright
- You see a halo around lights
- You see double (this sometimes goes away as the cataract gets bigger)
- You have to change the prescription for your glasses often
These symptoms can be a sign of cataracts or other eye problems so be sure to talk to your eye doctor if you start to notice these or other abnormalities to your vision.
What Are the Risk Factors for Cataracts?
Most cataracts are caused by normal changes to your eyes as you age. When you’re young, the lens in your eye is clear, but at around age 40 the proteins in the lens of your eye start to break down and clump together thus causing the cloudiness that most cataract patients experience. Over time the cataract gets more severe and clouds more of the lens making it difficult to see and dangerous for the patient to go about their daily lives.
To prevent the deterioration of the lens, it’s important to practice these eye health tips starting from a young age:
- Wear sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block the sun from your eyes
- Quit Smoking
- Eat Healthy
- Get a dilated eye exam
As with many other health concerns, getting the right nutrition and caring for your overall health can go a long way in preventing cataracts. And just like the skin on our bodies, the eyes are a living organ that requires protection from harmful sun rays. Practicing these health tips are key to focusing in on your eye health.
Surgery is the only way to get rid of a cataract, however you may not need surgery immediately after diagnosis. If detected early you may be able to make small changes to manage your cataracts such as by using brighter lights at home or work, wearing anti-glare sunglasses, or using magnifying lenses for reading and other activities. If you’re a prescription glasses user, you may need to get a new prescription of lenses or contacts to help you see better with cataracts early on.
Once cataracts begin to interfere with daily activities such as driving or reading, your doctor may then recommend cataract surgery. During surgery, the doctor removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a new, artificial lens also called an intraocular lens, or IOL. This surgery is very safe, and 9 out of 10 people who get it can see better afterwards.
It’s important to talk about your options for treatment with your doctor. If you’re an older adult and have yet to develop cataracts, it’s important to take into consideration ways to prevent their development. Eating a healthy diet and getting routine exams go a long way in getting a full view on your eye health.
For more information on this and other ways to take care of your vision and prevent blindness, check out these resources: