A surprising number of people don't know that cataracts affect approximately 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older. In reality, over 50% of senior citizens have some amount of cataract development.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens. The clouding prevents the transmission of light that is essential for vision.
Symptoms of cataracts
Cataracts are sometimes brushed off as normal age-related vision decline, yet there are some symptoms to look for that set them apart. Depending on the type of cataract, you may experience blurry vision, sensitivity to light or a decrease in the brightness of color. Some types of cataracts are completely asymptomatic until they are more advanced while others may even result in what is known as second sight'' or a temporary improvement in near vision.
Types of Cataracts
Cataracts can be sorted into three types which are categorized by the position within the lens. A cataract found near the back of the lens is referred to as a subcapsular cataract. Subcapsular cataracts are an increased risk for people that have diabetes, extreme cases of farsightedness or retinitis pigmentosa or are prescribed high doses of steroid medications. A cataract located in the center (nucleus) of the lens is categorized as a nuclear cataract and is usually found in conjunction with normal aging. The third type of cataract, a cortical cataract typically starts in the lens cortex, the area that surrounds the nucleus. Cortical cataracts are characterized by cloudy blotches that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the central area.
Cataract Prevention and Treatment
There is little you can do to prevent cataracts, other than protect your eyes from ultraviolet exposure by using sunglasses. Some studies suggest that taking antioxidants and reducing consumption of salt can also play a role in prevention.
In the beginning stages, visual aids can be used to treat vision loss, however, at some point vision may be impaired to a level to necessitate surgery. Surgery for cataracts is actually the most common surgery in the United States and is usually very successful. In the standard surgery, the surgeon takes out the clouded lens and implants a clear plastic lens called an IOL (intraocular lens). In 90% of patients, nearly perfect vision is achieved.
If you are 40 or over you should schedule an annual eye examination to detect symptoms of eye diseases such as cataracts. Contact our Centreville, VA eye practice today to book your exam.