What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens, typically from a buildup of protein, that can impair vision. Almost half of all Americans that are 65 years or older have cataracts which prevents light from passing through the lens ultimately causing some loss of vision.
There is not an effective drug therapy to prevent cataracts but those that smoke cigarettes, take certain medications, have had previous eye injury, excess exposure to sunlight, are diabetic or obese can increase their risk of cataracts.
Decreasing Your Risks for Cataracts:
- Stop smoking as smoking may reduce the nutrients in the blood that are needed to maintain lens health.
- Wean yourself from corticosteroids, if your physician advises. A study of individuals taking 15 mg oral prednisone for 1-2 years, 80% developed cataracts.
- Wear sunglasses and avoid the sun. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation in sunlight more than doubles the risk of cataracts.
- Regulate your blood sugar. Those with diabetes are at increased risk to get cataracts.
- Lose weight. The link to obesity and cataracts is unclear, but studies show that maintaining a proper weight may reduce cataract formation by decreasing blood glucose levels.
What are Symptoms of Cataracts:
Since cataracts develop slowly, you may not notice the symptoms right away. Symptoms can include:
- blurry, foggy or cloudy vision
- changes in the way color is seen
- difficulty driving at night especially glare from headlights, streetlights and rain
- double vision
- sudden change in eye glasses or contact lens prescription
Treatments for Cataracts:
The least invasive treatment for cataracts is a new eyeglass prescription or magnifiers to help the individual see better. However, cataract surgery is the most successful at restoring vision and is performed quite frequently. The prognosis of cataract surgery is great: most surgery recipients regain vision between 20/20 and 20/40.
What does the surgeon do?
The surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a intraoccular plastic lens. The advances of these lens help patients correct vision for near/far sightedness and can also offer UV protection to avoid damage to the retina.
Most patients have improved vision within days after the surgery and the eye is completely healed within 6 weeks.
Interestingly, people who underwent cataract surgery lowered their risk of hip fracture according to a study in JAMA. Visual impairment is a high predictor of an increased risk of fractures as sight provides information for postural balance and stability. With a cloudy lens, the risk for falling can increase.
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