The ABC’s of Cataracts

When Shakespeare’s King Lear calls on “cataracts” to spout during his “blow winds, and crack your cheeks!” speech, he’s not asking for cloudy vision.  In Shakespeare’s day, a “cataract” also means a huge waterfall.  This is fitting because the clouds of white foam arising from a waterfall are metaphorically like the cloudy vision caused by a cataract.  Roughly half of everyone who lives to age 80 will eventually get cataracts in one or both eyes.

What exactly is a cataract?  To answer that question, let’s begin by looking at the eye in more detail.  A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens.  The lens of the eye is right behind the pupil.  Light enters the eye through the pupil.  As the picture shows, the lens focuses light onto the retina, which is a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye.

The lens must be clear to focus light onto the retina.  If the lens has become cloudy with a cataract the image that is seen will be blurry.  People say that having a cataract is like looking through a dirt car windshield.

How Do Cataracts Form

The eye’s lens is composed of two substances: the first is water and the second is protein.  As we age some of the protein that constitutes the eye’s lens, along with water, can clump together, causing the clouding of the lens.  Although most cataracts are simply a product of aging there are other causes of cataracts, too.

Diabetics can develop cataracts and so can steroid users.  Cataracts can develop after an eye injury sometimes years later.  They can often develop after exposure to radiation.  Babies can sometimes be born with cataracts as well.  Other factors that could cause cataracts include smoking and drinking.  Here are the symptoms of cataracts, in case you think you are developing one.

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Faded colors
  • Headlight, lamps, or sunlight glare
  • Halos surrounding lights
  • Double visions
  • Multiple images in one eye

Frequent changes in your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses could also be a sign of cataracts.  If you notice any of these symptoms, or if you are age 60 or older, ask your eye doctor to check your eyes for cataracts, as well as for age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, or any other vision issues during your next eye exam.

What To Do When You Have Cataracts

If you do have a cataract and it is interfering with your normal everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV, your cloudy lens can be removed in surgery and replaced with a clear artificial lens.  If you need cataract surgery in both eyes, usually the doctor will do each eye a month or two apart.

However, surgery should be avoided unless it’s absolutely necessary for your vision or if a cataract interferes with getting another eye issue treated, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.  Nevertheless cataract removal is one of the most common operations performed in the United States and about 90% of people who have cataracts removed have improved vision.

Prevention

Now if you don’t have cataracts and you want to forestall getting them, there are some precautions you can take, according to research done by staffers of the Mayo Clinic.  Get regular eye exams, at least once every two years or more frequently if you notice changes in your vision quit smoking and drinking alcohol. Wear sunglasses and clear glasses with 100% Ultraviolet (UV) protection.  Maintain a healthy weight and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Quit smoking, decrease or eliminate drinking alcohol, decrease or eliminate eating meat, increase eating fruits and vegetables and you might live long enough to have your first cataract as a 95th birthday present – among other goodies.

Many people who need cataract surgery will get a temporary pair of eyeglasses to use that corrects the vision of both eyes, the eye that has the cataract and the eye that does not.  Then when they have had the cataract surgery in both eyes they get a new pair of glasses.

If you are looking to reduce or even get rid of your eye glasses and/or contacts let us at Rohr Eye & Laser Center help you! We offer several types of LASIK eye surgery including PRK, AK, CK, Cataracts surgery and more. We perform all these eye laser treatments with state of the art equipment. We are a leader in laser vision correction, and our goal is to help you achieve superior vision. Contact us today or view our website http://www.michiganlasik.com/  to schedule an appointment.

 

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