A surprising number of adults aren't aware that cataracts are the number one cause of sight loss in people 55 and over. In fact, over half of the people over 65 have some amount of cataracts.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts occur when the ocular lens, the part of the eye that focuses light to produce images, becomes clouded. The clouding prevents the passage of light necessary for proper eyesight.
How do I know I have cataracts?
Often adults attribute vision loss with age however cataracts do present some signs that are distinct from typical age-related vision loss. Depending on the type of cataract, symptoms include slightly blurry vision, sensitivity to light or a decrease in color vibrancy. Some cataracts show no signs until they are well developed while others may even result in what is known as second sight'' or a temporary improvement in near vision.
Types of Cataracts
There are three types of cataracts which are categorized by the position within the lens. A cataract found at the rear of the lens is referred to as a subcapsular cataract. Subcapsular cataracts are a higher risk for people with diabetes, high farsightedness or retinitis pigmentosa or are taking large amounts of steroid medications. A cataract found in the nucleus or center of the lens is called a nuclear cataract and is typically associated with increased age. The third type of cataract, a cortical cataract generally occurs in the lens cortex, the part surrounding the nucleus. Cortical cataracts often start off with white opacities that start in the outer areas of the lens and work their way to the center.
Preventing and Treating Cataracts
Researchers have not yet found fail-safe ways to prevent cataracts but some say that protecting your eyes from UV rays by wearing sunglasses can reduce cataract development. Some studies suggest that antioxidants and limited salt consumption may also prevent development.
During the early stages, eyeglasses can help treat vision loss, nevertheless, eventually eyesight will likely be impaired to a level to require surgical treatment. Cataract surgery is in fact the most frequently performed surgery in America and is typically very successful. In the standard surgery, the surgeon removes the opaque lens and replaces it with what is called an intraocular lens (IOL) made of plastic. For 90% of patients, nearly perfect vision is achieved.
If you are 40 or over it is important to schedule a yearly eye examination to check for signs of vision diseases such as cataracts. Call our Frederick, MD optometry practice today to schedule an appointment.