What is a Cataract? Back »

Image courtesy of the National Cancer Institute.


A cataract is a change in the lens of the eye that causes it to cloud. Most cataracts are simply the result of time. Research suggested that more than half of people over the age of 80 have a cataract or surgery to remove a cataract. In fact, surgery to remove cataracts is the most common type of operation performed in the United States.

While most cataracts may be the result of age related changes to the eye, there are other factors that may lead to the development of cataracts. Diabetes mellitus, medications, ultraviolet radiation, smoking, alcohol, eye injury, and nutritional deficiency may contribute to the development of cataracts. In Rare circumstances, cataracts may exist at birth or appear shortly after.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Cataracts are highly treatable, but require a comprehensive eye exam to detect. Once an adult reaches the age of 61, it is recommended they receive an eye exam annually, unless their doctor recommends more regular eye exams.

Cataract treatment depends on the level of impairment experienced by the individual. Individuals who experience little to no visual impairment may not need treatment. These folks may benefit from increasing the amount of light while reading or using anti-glare glasses when driving at night. Other people might benefit from a simple adjustment in their eye glass prescription.

Surgical Treatment

Cataracts may progress to a point where they impede the person’s ability to do everyday tasks. At this time, surgery may be necessary. There are generally two types of cataract surgery (small incision cataract surgery and extracapsular surgery). Both types of surgery involved removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. While cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective, it does carry the traditional risk associated with surgery. In addition, cataract surgery may increase the risk of retinal detachment. Only a trained vision provider will be able to tell you what option is best for you or a loved one.

Prevention

The best way to delay the onset of cataracts is by wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to help black the sun. In addition, consuming green leafy vegetables, fruit, and other foods with antioxidants may reduce the risk of age-related cataracts. Please visit with your vision provider, if you have additional questions.


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