Many adults aren't aware that cataracts affect approximately 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older. In reality, more than half of the people above age 65 have some degree of cataract development.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts occur when the ocular lens becomes clouded. This prohibits the transmission of light necessary for proper eyesight.
Signs of cataracts
Cataracts are often mistaken as normal age-related sight loss, yet there are certain symptoms that set them apart. Depending on the type of cataract, you may experience slightly blurry vision, sensitivity to light or a decrease in color vibrancy. Some cataracts show no symptoms until they are well developed while others may even result in a short-lived improvement in near vision called ''second sight''.
Types of Cataracts
Cataracts are broken down into three types which are distinguished by where they are positioned within the lens. A cataract located at the back of the lens is called a subcapsular cataract. Subcapsular cataracts are a higher risk for individuals that have diabetes, high farsightedness or retinitis pigmentosa or are taking high doses of steroids. A nuclear cataract is found at the nucleus or center of the lens and is typically found in conjunction with growing older. Finally, a cortical cataract typically occurs in the lens cortex, the area surrounding the nucleus. Cortical cataracts are characterized by white opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and gradually spread toward the nucleus.
Preventing and Treating Cataracts
Researchers have not found surefire ways to avoid the development of cataracts but some say that reducing ultraviolet exposure your eyes from UV rays by wearing sunglasses can reduce cataract development. Some research shows that antioxidants and reduced consumption of salt may also be preventative.
In the beginning stages, eyeglasses can help treat vision loss, nevertheless, at some point eyesight will likely be impaired to a level to require surgical treatment. Surgery for cataracts is actually the most frequently performed surgery in the US and is generally a success. In most cases, the surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a clear plastic lens called an IOL (intraocular lens). For nine out of 10 patients, nearly perfect vision is achieved.
If you are 40 or over you should schedule a yearly eye examination to check for symptoms of eye diseases such as cataracts. Contact our Duluth, MN eye practice today to book your exam.