What exactly are cataracts?
Do you know?
Read up on a few of these facts and see…

Cataracts are a common age-related vision problem. About 22 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts, and the older a person gets the greater the risk for developing cataracts. Women are more likely to develop cataracts than men, and African-Americans and Hispanic Americans are at particularly high risk.

1) So what exactly is a cataract?

      A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside your eye. This can be part of the normal aging process. Healthier people who have protected their eyes from UV throughout their life tend to develop them later however.

2) And who gets them? 

       Everyone, at some point!  Are you over 65? Chances are, we will bring it up to you at your next appointment. Cataracts are a completely normal age related change that happens to all of us.  As you age, they will progress, and eventually you will benefit from having them removed. All patients are different – some people develop them sooner, some are faster than others, so we always try to mention it as soon as we start seeing changes in the lens so you know what’s going on.

3) Where is a cataract? 

       A cataract is in the lens. The lens sits behind your pupil, and it is what focuses light onto your retina. The lens is like an onion, it’s layered. Some cataracts are just on the outside of the lens (anterior or posterior subcapsular) some are in the very center (nuclear sclerotic). Others look like spokes on a wheel (characteristic in diabetic patients), and some are caused by other metabolic problems. 

“Cataracts can appear any any age but the majority of cataracts develop later in life.”

4) When do they happen ? 

       Cataracts can appear any any age but the majority of cataracts develop later in life, becoming more noticeable and grade-able (we use a grading system to tell us how bad they are), by age 65 to 70.

5) Why do they appear? 

      Besides just getting older, UV exposure is a huge contributor to cataract development. The lens absorbs every ray of UV you have ever been exposed to. The free radicals produced by this and the general metabolism of the lens itself all contribute to the yellowing/clouding and hardening of the lens. 

6) What can I do about them? Can I prevent them? 

        You can’t avoid them completely, but patients who have used proper UV protection throughout life, and have had healthy diets in general, are likely to develop cataracts a little later in life. 

7) How does a cataract impact me and my vision?

      By the time the clouding becomes grade-able in your lens, you probably will have noticed a general decrease in your vision. Things won’t see as sharp as they once were, even with an updated prescription. Your vision will also likely feel dim; lights won’t seem as bright, and you may find yourself constantly turning lights up in an attempt to see clearer. In addition, you will become increasingly intolerant to glare. The perfect example is when you are driving at night, and you feel “blinded” by coming traffic’s headlights. Once these things start impacting your life, it’s time to talk about surgery options.

     First step: come in for a routine visit with one of us doctors. We will let you know what we see. We will then discuss our findings, and if a referral is warranted, we will send you to a surgery center for an initial consultation. At this appointment, more in-dept testing will be done to ensure your eyes are healthy enough for surgery. After you decide, together with the surgeon’s office, to proceed with surgery, you will be scheduled. Typically, the cataracts are removed one eye at at time, usually 1 week apart, and a new lens implant is placed in the eye. When the surgeon decides which implant to use for your eye, your prescription is often incorporated. Lots of people don’t need to wear distance glasses anymore, just reading ones! The healing time is generally incredibly fast, you just have to use eye drops for a month of so.  Over the first 6-8 weeks after your surgery, we will be monitoring your healing progress very closely through several follow up appointments. Patients are thrilled at how crisp and bright their vision is post-op, many wish they would have done it sooner! 

If you are interested in learning more, check this page out: http://www.pcli.com/treatment_for_cataracts/cataract_surgery/

Let us know if you have questions about cataracts, or if you feel like cataracts may be effecting your vision. 

Dr. Ashley Hibbert, O.D. / Myoptic Optometry

One Comment

  • I didn’t know that UV exposure is a huge contributor to cataract development. I feel like I need to invest in sunglasses since I love being outdoors. I imagine that there a quite a few people who don’t know about this since I don’t see much people wearing proper eye protection when I go out.

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