By now you’ve heard Grandma and Grandpa or Mom and Dad talk about cataracts. You might think you’re too young to worry, but if you have cloudiness or blurriness – no matter how young or how old you are – you should visit your eye doctor as soon as possible.
Studies show that in the United States, cataracts are beginning to develop in 17 percent of people age 40 and older. They’re the leading cause of vision loss in the United States and the number one cause of blindness in the world.
June is Cataract Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to do some self-care and make sure you’re seeing clearly.
Just what are cataracts, and how do they develop?
Right behind the colored portion of your eye (the iris), there is a lens that automatically helps focus light so it reaches the back part of your eye.
The lens is made out of water and proteins, and due to changes in the proteins the lens changes over time. It is crystal clear when we are young, but as we age the proteins change in structure due to metabolism, ultraviolet light, changes in diet and many other risk factors.
Over time, there will be gradual yellowing to what should be a clear lens. Over a little more time, it begins to turn brown.
Think of looking at mud puddle that you can’t see through very well when it’s stirred up – everything is dull and cloudy. That’s kind of what trying to look through a cataract is like.
Right now. That’s the short answer.
The longer answer is this: if you’re finding that even with the best pair of glasses, best pair of contacts or best conventional lenses your vision is not as good as you think it should be, make an appointment.
What we mean by that is maybe you’ve stopped driving at night because you can’t see as well as you used to, or you can’t quite see the face of a person face across the room from you. If your vision starts interfering with daily activities like this, it’s time to investigate cataracts.
This is really important because, as we’re told by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “… the longer cataracts are left untreated, the more difficult it can be to successfully remove the cataract and restore vision.”
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology here are some of the symptoms you may notice if you have a cataract in your eye:
So what's the line in the sand for vision? Typically, we use vision guidelines set by Medicare and insurance companies. You might have 20/40 or 20/60 vision and need to move forward with cataract surgery.
The first form of cataract surgery was performed in the 5th century B.C.! Today, there’s an international company called Alcon that just announced it has implanted 100 million lenses into people’s eyes around the world.
There are 25 million Americans living with cataracts, and the surgery to remove them has become one of the most common and effective procedures in the United States. By the time people reach age 80, the number of people who have already had cataract surgery is around 60 percent.
There’s a 98 percent success rate, and it only takes 5-10 minutes.
We tell our patients there is no pain and they won’t need stitches. We send a bottle of drops home, and within a couple of days your vision will be clearer.
One of the greatest things about cataract surgery is we can choose outcomes.
If you’ve been nearsighted with thick glasses your whole life, or you’ve been farsighted with big thick heavy lenses, we’ll calculate ahead of time what implant will help see really well without glasses again.
There are value-added lenses that cost over and above regular ones do, but with them have the ability to correct astigmatism, or you can have a multifocal lens placed inside your eye.
The results are phenomenal. So phenomenal, in fact, that we now have patients without cataracts having implants placed in their eyes so they can be glasses free for the rest of their lives.
Routine eye care is a great place to start. Scheduling an eye exam each year is one way for us to stay on top of your eye health and see what may be developing.
Eating a healthy diet can help slow the development of cataracts, specifically foods that are high in antioxidants and vitamins C and E. Wearing sunglasses also can help when it comes to slowing down or warding off cataract development.
If you haven’t had an eye exam in a while, schedule one right away.
Between now and your newly scheduled appointment, think about what you’ve just read through. Does anything stand out? If so, add it to your list to talk about when you come see us. We want to know what symptoms you are having so we can put together the best possible plan for treatment.
Because when you get right down to it, clarity, whether it’s in communication or your vision, is everything.