A surprising number of people don't know that cataracts affect approximately 20.5 million Americans over the age of 40. In fact, more than 50% of senior citizens have some amount of cataracts.
What are cataracts?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens. The clouding inhibits the passage of light necessary for proper vision.
Symptoms of cataracts
Many people over 40 attribute vision loss with age but cataracts do have a number of signs that are distinct from typical age-related eyesight loss. Depending on the type of cataract, you may experience blurred vision, increased glare from sun light or artificial light or a decrease in color vibrancy. Some cataracts show no symptoms 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
There are three types of cataracts which are differentiated by where they are positioned within the lens. A cataract located at the back of the lens is called a subcapsular cataract. Subcapsular cataracts are an increased risk for individuals with diabetes, high farsightedness or retinitis pigmentosa or are taking high doses of steroids. A nuclear cataract is located at the nucleus or center of the lens and is generally found in conjunction with increased age. Finally, a cortical cataract typically starts in the lens cortex, the area that surrounds the central nucleus. Cortical cataracts often start off with white opacities that start in the outer areas of the lens and gradually spread toward the center.
Preventing and Treating Cataracts
Researchers have not found guaranteed ways to avoid cataracts but some say that reducing ultraviolet exposure your eyes from UV rays with sunglasses can reduce cataract development. Some research suggests that antioxidants and reduced salt intake can also prevent development.
While initial loss of sight can be treated with corrective devices such as eyeglasses or magnifying devices, eventually vision may deteriorate to a level to necessitate surgery. Surgery for cataracts is actually the most common surgery in the country and is typically quite successful. In most cases, the surgeon removes the lens and replaces it with a clear plastic lens called an IOL (intraocular lens). For 9 out of 10 patients, nearly perfect vision is achieved.
To ensure early diagnosis and treatment it is important to book an annual eye exam to detect symptoms of vision diseases such as cataracts. Contact our Phoenix, AZ eye practice today to book an exam.