More than 22.3 million Americans currently have cataracts, making it one of the most common health issues in the country today. Additionally, more than half of all Americans have cataracts by the time they are 80 years old.
For some, cataracts are a frightening prospect, due to their prevalence and potential to affect the way we see. However, while they are a leading cause of blindness, cataracts are also very treatable! So to help our patients see this vision issue for what it is, we’re exploring and explaining this vision issue in honor of Cataract Awareness Month:
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens that can result in a change in vision. As the clouding develops, it either completely blocks or simply changes the passage of light into the eye via the lens.
As a result of this blockage, the retina - which sends information to the brain via the optic nerve - does not receive clear information from the lens. And instead of seeing the world clearly, your vision becomes blurry, all because the retina and brain cannot process and project a clear picture for you to see.
Why Do We Get Cataracts?
The exact cause of a cataract is unknown. We do know that as you age, you are at a higher risk of developing a cataract. We also know from research that long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun, illnesses such as diabetes, some medications, genetics, some eye injuries, and smoking can all increase your chances of developing a cataract.
The potential influences on cataract develop are so varied that, if you are worried about them, it’s best to discuss them with your doctor. This will allow you to address any specific risk factors that come up in your own lifestyle and medical history.
Can We Prevent Cataracts?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent cataracts at this time. However, there are things we can do to reduce our risk of getting them:
- Eat right. A healthy diet has been linked to a lower risk of many eye diseases, including cataracts. A healthy diet includes five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables, at least three daily servings of 100 percent whole grains each day, and two servings of fish each week if possible. Ideally this diet will be low in fried, processed, and sugary foods.
- Quit Smoking. Smoking has been linked to a number of eye problems, as the chemicals that come with this habit produce toxins within our bodies. If you’re struggling to quit smoking, consider talking to a doctor about tools and resources that can help!
- Wear sunglasses and hats. UV rays contribute to your risk of cataracts. Blocking those rays and reducing your eyes’ exposure to them is one way you can reduce your risk of developing blurry vision.
- Control your blood sugar. People who have diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts than people who don’t. Controlling your blood sugar can minimize its effects and help to reduce your risk of developing cataracts.
What Should I Expect If I Get A Cataract?
Firstly, know that your doctor will provide you with an in-depth review of your individual case should you develop a cataract! Every case is different and is treated as such. There are, however, some things that you are likely to experience should you need to address a cataract.
You may initially be able to combat the symptoms of your cataracts with simple adjustments, such as wearing new eyeglasses or improving the lighting in your home and office. This is something our team in particular considers very early on when cataracts develop. Only when the symptoms become so severe that they interfere with your day-to-day (i.e. affecting important tasks like reading and driving) will surgery be recommended.
Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. Should you need surgery, your doctor will guide you through the process of booking the procedure, assuming you decide that surgery is right for you. If the time doesn’t seem right for surgery, you will not suffer any long-term damage from delaying the procedure.
Still have questions? At Everett and Hurite, we aim to provide our patients with treatment plans that they are comfortable with. Contact us and set up an appointment if you have questions about your cataract risk, or if you are looking for opinions on how to address your cataracts at this time. Our team is ready to help you make a decision that best addresses your needs and your health.