The Clear Truth About Cataracts In observance of Cataract Awareness Month, we wanted to create a blog post about, well, cataracts – what they are, who gets them, and how they are treated. It turns out there is a ton of information on the Web about cataracts, which is a good thing, and much of it comes from highly reputable sources, such as the doctors who treat cataracts. And quite a few other people have blogged about cataracts, so we decided we would share some of the interesting things we found.

 

First things first. What are cataracts? A cataract forms when the lens, which sits in the eye behind the iris (the colored part), gets cloudy, causing blurred vision. This happens as we age. Cataracts are also the most common cause of reversible blindness in the world.

Cataracts can begin to form in middle age, but they are typically small and not bothersome. Cataracts become more of a problem after age 60. Says the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cataracts affect approximately 22 million Americans age 40 and older. And by age 80, more than half of Americans have or have had a cataract.

Aging is one risk factor for cataracts, but others include being diabetic, using nicotine or drinking alcohol, and exposure to sunlight.

According to the National Eye Institute, common symptoms of cataracts include:

  • cloudy or blurry vision
  • colors seem faded
  • glare or a halo around lights
  • poor night vision
  • double vision or multiple images in one eye
  • frequent prescription changes in your glasses or contact lenses

Cataracts are detected through an eye exam that includes:

  • a visual acuity test, which measures how well you see at various distances
  • a dilated eye exam, which allows for examination of the retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems
  • tonometry to measure the pressure inside the eye

Treating cataracts is, in some ways, very simple. Surgery is performed to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens. Laser treatment for cataracts is available making the surgery less invasive than it was in the past. Surgery is done on an outpatient basis, meaning you go home that day.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a baseline vision screening at age 40, after which your eye doctor will recommend follow-up depending on what is or is not found. After age 65, the Academy recommends a vision screening every one to two years to check for age-related conditions.

Five years ago, CNN Medical Producer Val Wilingham blogged about cataracts, which were of personal interest to her as many of her family members had been diagnosed. She covered risk factors, treatments and some interesting statistics. Click here to read what she wrote.

Our research also uncovered an interesting blog post from a Harvard doc about how cataracts are a risk factor for hip fracture.

Do you or a loved one suffer from cataracts? Have you been treated and if so, how did it go? Are you a doctor whose patients have cataracts? If you have something to share, please let us know. We’re interested in talking about cataracts in August, and all year long.

 

The Clear Truth About Cataracts