Since June has been designated as Cataract Awareness Month, thought it would be good to answer some common questions about them. Age-related cataracts is a leading cause of blindness in the world. More than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts by 2020. However, cataracts can occur at any age including infancy. The exact cause of cataracts is unknown, but more older people than younger people get the diabetics may acquire them at an earlier age. Other risk factors include Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, hypertension, obesity, smoking, prolonged use of corticosteroid medicines, statins medication that are used to reduce cholesterol.
It is possible to have cataracts and not be aware of them as they start out small. As they mature you might notice that your vision is blurred a little, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass. The cataract may make light from the sun or oncoming headlights seem too bright or glaring. Colors may not appear as bright as they once did.
Cataracts are found in the lens of the eye. The lens is found behind the color part of the eye called the iris. This is the part of the eye that is responsible for focusing light both at distance and near. The lens is made up of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. As we get older, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. Over time this area gets larger and larger. They may cause you to need a change in you eyeglass prescription, but ultimately the only treatment for cataracts is surgery. When to have the cataract surgery, depends on how much the cataracts interferes with your normal life.
Whether or not cataracts can be prevented is not clear. There has been some studies that suggest that certain nutrients and nutritional supplements may reduce your risk. One large study found that those subjects who had higher dietary intakes of Vitamin E along with the carotenoid lutein and zeaxanthin significantly decreased the risks of cataracts. Other studies have show antioxidant vitamins such as Vitamin C and food containing omega-3 fatty acids may reduce cataract risk. Certainly wearing protective sunglasses that block 100% of the sun’s UV rays when outdoor would help retard cataract formation. If you are on corticosteroids or statins, discuss with your doctor the possibility of switching to other medications that are less like to cause cataracts. Absolutely stop smoking!!
Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. It is a relatively painless procedure to regain vision. During surgery, the surgeon will remove your cloudy, cataractous lens and replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL). Today there a many types of IOL’s including ones that helps you see at all distances. Many IOL block both ultraviolet and blue light, which can damage the retina. In many cases you will still need some sort of glasses. For best vision and comfort after surgery consider anti-reflective coating and photochromic lenses.
If you think you have cataracts, give us a call and have a comprehensive dilated eye examination.