Wellness

Understanding Cataracts

In recognition of August as National Cataract Awareness Month
Understanding Cataracts

Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye, which is normally clear. This cloudiness makes it difficult to see clearly as it prevents the passage of light into the eye.

Some Facts About Cataracts

  • There are two types of cataracts – age-related (appearing later in life) and congenital (developed in early childhood).
  • Cataracts are very common, impacting approximately 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older. Scientists believe more than 30.1 million people will have cataracts within the next 20 years.
  • More than 50 percent of Americans have cataracts by age 80.
  • Cataracts develop in one or both eyes. If in both eyes, one will be more severely affected than the other.
  • No medications or exercises are available to prevent formation, slow progression, or make cataracts disappear.

Factors Contributing to Cataract Development

Based on extensive research, scientists believe these factors may increase the possibility of individuals developing cataracts:

  • Aging
  • Family history of cataracts
  • Diabetes
  • Exposure to bright sunlight over time
  • Long-term use of corticosteroids
  • Previous eye injuries or inflammation
  • Exposure to lead or radiation
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity

While several risk factors are unavoidable, lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the development of cataracts. Research also indicates that the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can be effective in preventing cataracts.

Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms, ask your eye doctor whether you might have cataracts:

  • Clouded, blurry or dim vision
  • Changing vision prescriptions often
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Sensitivity to light or glare
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Double vision

Treatment Options

If you do develop cataracts, strong lighting and vision correction may help in the early stages. Eventually you will likely need cataract surgery. With more than 1.6 million cataract procedures performed annually, this is one of the safest and most frequently performed surgical procedures in the United States.

If you – or a close relative or friend – have had cataracts, please share your experiences and treatment options. I’ll post the responses in a future blog. – Scott

Sources: Prevent Blindness America, (www.preventblindness.org) and Medical News Today (www.medicalnewstoday.com).

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