As we grow older our bodies experience many different changes, and our eyes are no exception to this rule. Usually as we age and our vision becomes more blurred, we assume that we probably need new glasses with a stronger prescription, but in fact, cataracts may be the culprit behind our declined vision.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in Americans 65 years old and older. By age 80, nearly half of all adults will develop a cataract. This month take some time to learn how to recognize the symptoms, find treatment, and educate those around you about this common yet treatable eye condition.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is an opacity that clouds the natural lens inside the eye. Normally the path of light to the retina (where the light sensors of the eye are) is as clear as possible. When proteins that make up the lens clump together, the resulting cataract blocks some of the light making vision blurry or hazy. Cataracts may start in one eye or can develop in both eyes around the same time. They are not painful and therefore can go unnoticed.
Symptoms can include:
- Fading or dimness of colors
- Frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions
- Trouble reading small print
- Glare and halos around lights
- Blurry or cloudy vision
- Distortion of vision in one eye more than the other
- Difficulty driving, especially at night
Cataract surgery is considered one of the most popular and highly successful procedures for improving vision in cataract patients. In fact, a recent study by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons reported that 98% of cataract patients had their vision successfully improved following cataract surgery. Many patients reported that their vision was even better than it was before they developed cataracts due to the vision-correcting nature of the surgery.
While there are no clinically proven approaches to preventing cataracts, simple preventive strategies can be taken to including reducing exposure to UV rays, quitting smoking, and increasing antioxidant vitamin intake through the consumption of leafy green vegetables and nutritional supplements. UV blocking sunglasses should be worn whenever you’re exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. If you currently smoke, quit as it will decrease your likelihood of developing cataracts. The American Academy of Ophthalmologists also recommends eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants such as spinach, broccoli, and eggs. Studies have also suggested that Vitamin C and E supplements may help to lower the risk of developing cataracts.
It is also very important that you schedule a regular eye examination, especially if you are over 40 to help diagnose cataracts and other common eye complications.