A surprising number of people aren't aware that cataracts affect approximately 20.5 million Americans over the age of 40. In reality, over half of adults above age 65 have some degree of cataract development.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens. The clouding prohibits the transmission of light that is essential for vision.
Symptoms of cataracts
Cataracts are often brushed off as normal age-related vision decline, however there are certain symptoms to look for that characterize them. Depending on the type of cataract, you may experience slightly blurred vision, sensitivity to sun light or artificial light or a decrease in the brightness of color. Some cataracts show no signs until they are more advanced while others may even show signs of a temporary improvement in near vision called ''second sight''.
There are three types of cataracts which are distinguished by where they are located within the lens. A subcapsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens. Subcapsular cataracts are particularly common amongst people that have diabetes, high farsightedness or retinitis pigmentosa or are taking high doses of steroid medications. A cataract found in the nucleus or center of the lens is called a nuclear cataract and is typically a result of normal aging. Finally, a cortical cataract usually is located in the lens cortex, the part that surrounds the central nucleus. Cortical cataracts often start off with white opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and gradually spread toward the central area.
Cataract Prevention and Treatment
There is no fail-safe answer to prevent 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 taking antioxidants and limiting salt consumption can also prevent development.
During the early stages, vision correction can be used to improve vision loss, nevertheless, at some point eyesight may be impaired enough to require surgery. Cataract surgery is in fact the most common surgery in America and is usually a success. In the standard surgery, the doctor removes the opaque lens and replaces it with an intraocular lens (IOL) made of plastic. For 90% of patients, vision is restored to between 20/20 and 20/40.
If you are 40 or over you should schedule an annual eye examination to check for symptoms of vision diseases such as cataracts. Contact our Baltimore, MD optometry practice today to schedule an exam.