Though many of us are quite aware of cataracts and their existence, many are unaware of what cataracts are and how exactly they affect a person’s vision health.
According to the Kellogg Eye Center, by the age of 65, over 90 percent of people have at least one cataract. Between the ages of 75 and 80, about half of those people have suffered some degree of vision loss due to cataracts.
It is important to learn about cataracts now, before becoming one of the 90 percent to become afflicted. This month we have the wonderful opportunity to educate ourselves about this common eye condition and what can be done to prevent it, whether you have it yet or not.
What are Cataracts?
Let’s start at the very beginning. A cataract is basically the clouding of the eye’s lens. The lens of the eye is normally clear that when it becomes clouded by a cataract, it can cause lost vision because not enough light is being let into the eye.
However, cataracts are unfortunately not as cut and dry as that. In fact, there are several types of different cataracts.
- Subcapsular Cataracts: These cataracts form at the back of the lens. Those with diabetes are at a high risk of developing subcapsular cataracts.
- Cortical Cataracts: Cortical cataracts are cataracts that form on the side or periphery of the lens. Over time, the cataract will spread towards the center of the eye and affect the central vision.
- Nuclear Cataracts: Nuclear cataracts are formed deep in the nucleus of the lens. This is the type of cataract most associated with aging.
- Congenital Cataracts: Congenital cataracts are found in newly born babies. This type of cataract normally forms while the child is in the womb. It is a rare condition.
If left to develop, cataracts can cause a lot of damage to your vision and can sometimes lead to permanent vision loss.
Cataracts form when there is a build up of protein in the lens of the eye. New lens cells form on the outside of the lens and push older cells down. The older cells get compacted in the center of the lens. When this happens, your lens will look cloudy and will cause vision loss.
Cataracts normally form as a result of aging, but heavy smoking, drinking and air pollution are all factors that put you at a higher risk of developing cataracts.
Cataracts can form in one or both eyes. If a cataract forms in one eye, there is no evidence to suggest that one will form in the other eye. Unfortunately, no one truly knows why cataracts form as we age or why they sometimes form in one eye but not the other.
Symptoms and Signs
Cataracts can often begin to form with no warning. You may experience some abnormally blurry vision, but more times than not, people see this as a sign for new glasses.
Sometimes people don’t recognize the signs before it is too late and their vision can no longer be helped. This is why an annual eye exam is very important. With a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will be able to catch a cataract early and hopefully slow down its formation in the lens.
An obvious symptom to look for is blurred vision. If your eyesight is suddenly cloudy and seems as though you’re looking through a dirty window, it may be time to visit your doctor. If you look at your eyes in a mirror and notice clouding on the lens, you may have a cataract forming.
Another symptom is glare. Sometimes cataracts can cause glare from bright lights. This is especially true at night. Headlights and street lights against a dark sky may see more bright than usual and can be very dangerous. If you experience this while driving at night, stop driving and consult your doctor immediately.
In the early stages of a cataract, it can be easily treated with the right visual aids such as glasses, contact lenses, bifocals, and the right magnification. Adjusting lighting in one’s home is also a common way to deal with cataracts so that lights are not bright and don’t cause glare.
For many, the above treatments are enough for them to continue living life unobstructed. However, some cataracts are so dense and cause loss of vision or blindness that the only solution is to remove it.
When a cataract begins to affect an individual’s day to day vision, doctors will often recommend surgery. Cataract surgery involves removing the cataract and the lens and implanting a new artificial lens. Normally if two cataracts need to be removed, two separate surgeries will be performed, four to eight weeks between them.
However, some people have reported cataracts returning even after the surgery. Surgery isn’t always the best option, but if you choose this path, be sure to ask your doctor about the risks involved.
Though the exact cause of cataracts is not known, there are some methods you can use to slow the progression and hopefully prevent cataracts from forming.
- Moderate the Sunglasses: Yes, we often talk about how harmful UV rays and sunlight can be to our eyes. But sometimes, it can be beneficial to allow some sun to waft over your eyes. Sunlight nourishes our bodies and that includes our eyes. Moderation is key.
- The Right Nutrients: Getting the right eye nutrients is crucial to your overall eye health. Getting enough vitamin A, bilberry, and lutein in your eyes will help them stay strong and slow down the signs of aging. Don’t have the time of resources to acquire all these nutrients? The Ocu-Plus Formula is an herbal supplement that contains all the necessary eye nutrients in one simple pill.
- Get Eye Exams Regularly: The reason we stress this point so much is because we often don’t think to visit the eye doctor every year unless something is wrong. Unfortunately, if something is wrong in the eye, it is sometimes too late to reverse the damage. That’s why, even if you don’t have any potential cataract symptoms, you should still get regular eye exams done. Once a year is often enough, but if you have an existing condition, consider going twice a year.
Don’t be caught off guard by cataracts. They are easily spottable and treatable when discovered early. Why not take an hour this month to have your eyes checked?