A surprising number of people aren't aware that cataracts affect approximately 20.5 million Americans over the age of 40. In fact, more than 50% of the population over 65 have some amount of cataracts.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is when the lens, the portion of the eye that focuses light to create images, becomes clouded. This prohibits the transmission of light necessary for proper eyesight.
How do I know I have cataracts?
Many people over 40 associate vision loss with age however cataracts do present certain signs that are distinct from typical age-related vision problems. Depending on the type of cataract, you may experience slightly blurry vision, increased glare from light or a decrease in color vibrancy. Some types of cataracts are completely asymptomatic until they are well developed while others may even show signs of what is known as second sight'' or a temporary improvement in near vision.
Types of Cataracts
There are three main types of cataracts which are differentiated by where they are located within the lens. A cataract found at the back of the lens is referred to as a subcapsular cataract. Subcapsular cataracts are an increased risk for people that have diabetes, high farsightedness or retinitis pigmentosa or are taking high doses of steroid medications. A nuclear cataract is positioned at the nucleus or center of the lens and is typically found in conjunction with increased age. Finally, a cortical cataract usually starts in the lens cortex, the part encircling the central nucleus. Cortical cataracts are characterized by white opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the central area.
Cataract Prevention and Treatment
Researchers have not determined fail-safe ways to avoid cataracts but some say that reducing UV exposure your eyes from UV rays by wearing sunglasses can reduce cataract development. Some studies indicate that antioxidants and limiting salt intake can also prevent development.
During the early stages, vision correction can help correct vision loss, however, at some point vision may be impaired to a level to require surgery. Surgery for cataracts is actually the most common surgery in the US and is typically quite successful. In most cases, the surgeon removes the lens and replaces it with an intraocular lens (IOL) made of plastic. For 90% of patients, they are able to restore vision to between 20/20 and 20/40.
If you are 40 or over you should book a yearly eye examination to check for signs of vision diseases such as cataracts. Call our San Jose, CA eye practice today to book your exam.