Submitted by Ryan Wille, B.S.
Community Health Educator
June is national cataract awareness month. WebMD Medical Reference states that more than half of all Americans age 65 and older have cataracts. Cataracts occur as a result of build up of protein in the lens of the eye. This build up prevents light from passing clearly through the lens, causing some vision loss. New lens cells form on the outside of the lens and the older cells are compacted into the center of the lens, resulting in the cataract.
Many people believe that cataracts only develop as we age. However, there are several types of cataracts that individuals can have. These types of cataracts include:
- Age-Related Cataracts: This form develops as a result of aging.
- Congenital Cataracts: Babies can be born with cataracts. This is the result of an infection, injury or poor development before they are born. These cataracts can also develop during childhood.
- Secondary Cataracts: These develop as a result of other medical conditions. Diabetes or exposure to toxic substances, ultraviolet light, radiation and certain drugs can lead to the development of these cataracts.
- Traumatic Cataracts: These develop as a result of injury to the eye.
Cataracts usually develop slowly and cause few symptoms until a noticeable amount of light is blocked. When symptoms are present, they include:
- Cloudy, blurry, foggy or filmy vision.
- Progressive nearsightedness in older individuals. This is referred to as “second sight” because they may no longer need glasses.
- Changes in the way individuals see color.
- Problems driving at night, such as glare from oncoming headlights.
- Problems with glare during the day.
- Double vision.
- Sudden changes in glasses prescription.
There are two basic treatments for individuals with cataracts. Some individuals may be able to correct their vision to an acceptable level with a change in prescription, eyeglasses, or contacts. This correction will eliminate the need for surgery at that time. If vision can not be improved and cataracts interfere with daily life, that individual may be a candidate for cataract surgery. This surgery involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear and artificial one.
Unfortunately, there is no proven method of preventing cataracts. Because cataracts are common in older adults, it is important for individuals to have eye examinations on a regular basis. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that individuals ages 40 to 60 should have comprehensive eye exams every two to four years, and individuals 65 and older should have a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years. Individuals with a history of eye problems or medical conditions that increase the risk of eye disease, such as diabetes, should have an eye exam more frequently.
For more information, contact your vision care provider or HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can also attend a free program entitled “The Aging Eye” on Wednesday, June 22 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in Littauer’s Auditorium with guest speaker, Dr. David Kwiat, Ophthalmologist & Surgeon of Kwiat Eye & Laser Surgery.