For Americans over the age of 40, cataracts are the most common cause of blindness. According to Prevent Blindness America, there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined.
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and pupil.
There are three types of cataract:
- A subcapsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens. People with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a subcapsular cataract.
- A nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone (nucleus) of the lens. Nuclear cataracts usually are associated with aging.
- A cortical cataract is characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the center in a spoke-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.
When cataracts first begin, they may have little impact on your vision. It may become slightly blurred, colors may be slightly muted or you may notice that driving at night comes with extra glare.
As cataracts progress, the clumps of protein clouding your lens may turn yellow or brownish. This can result in a yellow tint appearing on the eye and in your vision.
There is no definitive known cause of cataracts, but researchers have identified several factors that can increase the risk of cataracts. Along with age, some of the common factors are:
- Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
- Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol
- Previous eye injury or inflammation
- Previous eye surgery
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Significant alcohol consumption
- High myopia
- Family history
One common theory is that cataracts are caused by oxidation in the eye. This is supported by nutrition studies that show fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants may help prevent certain types of cataracts.
Other studies have shown antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids may reduce cataract risk.
Another way to prevent cataracts is to wear UV blocking sunglasses when spending time outdoors.
There are some products on the market, including eye drops, that claim the ability to prevent or reverse cataracts. Although consumers may be tempted to spend significant amounts of money with these products, be aware, nothing has been proven effective in preventing or reversing the formation of cataracts.
Many people develop cataracts but, not everyone requires surgery. Sometimes a change in glasses can improve vision or delay the need for surgery. Cataract surgery should be considered if the cataract causes symptoms bothersome to the patient. These include difficulty reading, watching TV, driving or performing normal day to day activities.
Piedmont Eye Center is the area’s only LenSx™ laser cataract surgery provider. Laser surgery, combined with advanced implants, allow our patients to see the best they can following surgery. Our five cataract surgeons are dedicated to providing the best care possible for each of our patients.
If you think that you may need cataract care, please contact us today.