You can ask most people what they know about cataracts and you will probably hear a combination of things like “my grandmother had cataracts” or “my doctor said I’m starting to develop cataracts”. It is surprising for an eye disease that affects roughly half of all older Americans – that is all they know about cataracts.
Here are the seven things you should know about this eye condition:
1. Cataracts are not on your eyes, they are in your eyes.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens and most assume it develops on top of the lens, but it is actually inside the eye. Clumps of protein build up in the eye and the lens becomes less transparent. The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image.
2. Cataracts are common.
Cataracts affect almost 25 million Americans. More that 3.5 million cataract surgeries are performed annually and it is one of the safest, most effective types of surgeries. The Boomer generation is opting to have cataract surgery earlier than their predecessors and the average age for surgery has dropped to 65.
3. What are the symptoms?
Cataracts are not painful and usually form slowly, so you may not know you have them until they start to block light. Your vision will become cloudy, blurry or foggy. Some people complain of problems driving at night due to the glare of oncoming headlights. Any changes like double vision, nearsightedness or the way you see color, could be symptoms of cataracts.
4. How is a cataract detected?
Cataracts are detected during a comprehensive eye exam that includes an eye chart test and a dilated eye exam. The doctor will place drops in your eyes to widen (dilate) the pupils and examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage.
5. There are different types of cataracts.
- Senile cataracts are the most common form and are age related.
- Secondary cataracts are caused by diseases such as diabetes or some medications.
- Traumatic cataracts result from eye injury such as cut or chemical burns.
- Childhood cataracts can be linked to congenital disease or a disease during pregnancy.
6. Who is at risk and can you reduce your risk factors?
Cataracts are most often related to age. However, we can reduce our risk factors. Cataracts can be related to sun exposure; therefore wearing sunglasses with UV protection can reduce the harmful effects. Healthy habits such as not smoking, limiting alcohol and loading up on antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies can also help.
7. What is the treatment for cataracts?
Surgery is the safe and effective option for treating cataracts. Our skilled surgeons use a procedure called “No-Stitch” cataract surgery, which was developed by Dr. Mike McFarland. This type of surgery is now the global standard for treating cataracts. With “No-Stitch” cataract surgery the eye is allowed to naturally heal itself without the use of sutures. During surgery, the natural lens is removed and the surgeon replaces it with a new artificial lens implant.