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Cataracts

Cataracts and You


cataract imageA cataract is clouding or discoloration within the lens of the eye. The clouded lens distorts and blocks the passage of light through the eye to the retina, causing vision to be dull, blurred and indistinct. Over time, cataracts can progress to the point that they affect vision and need to be removed.

Cataracts are a normal part of the aging process. Over the years, repeated exposure to sunlight probably contributes to a gradual clouding of the lens. While cataracts can affect people of any age, they are most common in older adults. In fact, two-thirds of all adults over age 60 have some sign of cataract formation.

Am I at risk for cataracts?

 

There are a number of risk factors that are associated with developing cataracts that require removal:

  • AGE: Although the changes in the lens may not have progressed enough to require attention, nearly everyone over age 65 has cataracts. It’s part of the normal aging process.
  • GENDER: Women appear to be at greater risk than men.
  • RACE: Statistics demonstrate that African Americans are at greater risk than Caucasians.
  • GEOGRAPHY: People who have lived in countries closer to the equator are more likely to develop significant cataracts.
  • HEALTH: Individuals at highest risk include diabetics, patients taking certain medications (for example, corticosteroids and diuretics), individuals with retinitis pigmentosa, farsighted persons, or those with a strong family history of cataracts.
  • SMOKING and HEAVY ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION: There appears to be a relationship between each of these two lifestyle choices and the development of the most common type of cataract.

Do I have cataracts?

The changes caused by cataracts generally develop so slowly that you won’t notice them until they are serious enough to affect your normal lifestyle. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I having trouble driving at night?
  • Is it more difficult to see distant objects?
  • Does my vision seem blurred or dim?
  • Have my eyes become sensitive to light and glare?
  • Do I see a halo around lights?
  • Do colors seem “dull”?
  • Have I had to change eyeglass prescriptions more frequently than usual?
  • Do I need brighter light for reading?
  • Does my vision sometimes seem distorted? Do I see “ghosted” images?
  • Have I experienced double vision in one eye only?

Only a professional can determine if cataracts are the cause of your symptoms. If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it is time to contact Quinlan Eye Center for an evaluation.

When should a cataract be removed?

When a cataract interferes with your vision and daily activities, it’s time for surgery to remove the cloudy lens and exchange it for a new, crystal clear lens.

Can wearing sunglasses prevent cataracts?

Wearing sunglasses will probably not prevent cataracts. However, some studies suggest that limiting ultraviolet exposure from sunlight may reduce your risk of developing some types of cataracts. At this time, we don’t know if or how much ordinary exposure to sunlight affects cataract development, and these questions are the subject of continuing research. In the meantime, we have enough evidence to suggest that it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and wear sunglasses. Look for sunglasses that block 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays. Wearing a hat with a wide brim may also help limit exposure to these rays.

Do nutrition and diet have anything to do with cataract development?

Nutrition may play at least a limited role. For example, heavy salt consumption appears to increase the risk of significant cataract development.

Some research suggests that antioxidant vitamins, like vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamins C and E, and selenium, may slow down cataract development, and all of these are available in common multivitamin formulas. Beyond that, the use of nutritional supplements carries its own risks, so you should consult your physician before adding them to your diet.

Can eye drops cure cataracts?

No. Cataracts occur when proteins cluster together inside the eye’s lens. They are not caused by a film covering the eye. Consequently, cataracts cannot be dissolved with eye drops, but can only be removed with cataract surgery.

To learn more about cataract surgery, click here.