If you’re over the age of sixty, chances are that you’ve already heard about cataracts. The word “cataract” refers to a condition where the lens of your eye grows cloudy, affecting vision by decreasing your visibility. The lens of the eye is comprised of protein and water. As time goes on, the protein in the eye begins to bundle together, making it more difficult for light to pass through your eye and fogging up vision. Consequently, cataracts “fog” vision, preventing sufferers from seeing as clearly as they used to.
Over half of people over the age of 80 have or will develop cataracts in their life time. Three fifths of people over the age of 60 will eventually develop cataracts as well. This does not mean that younger people don’t get cataracts—you can actually develop cataracts during your 40s to 50s, but the cataracts generally do not actively impact your vision until you reach your 60s or 70s. Why? Well, during middle age, cataracts are much smaller and do not block as much light from entering the eye, and in older age, cataracts have had the time to grow much larger and therefore block out more light. The good thing is that you can’t “catch” cataracts, and just because you have cataracts in one eye doesn’t mean it’ll “infect” the other eye.
Generally, cataracts develop because of old age, but can also form in other ways. Cataracts are linked with diabetes and steroid use. Researchers have also found links between cataracts and steroid use, diuretics, tranquilizers, and smoking.
Other people develop cataracts after surgery for other eye diseases, or after injuries to the eye itself. Radiation exposure is also linked to cataracts. Babies can even be born with congenital cataracts!
Most practitioners agree all people, regardless of age, should protect their vision by wearing wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses when they’re out in the sun—some studies have shown connections between UV rays and cataracts. Other providers suggest eating a diet high in antioxidants to cataracts. Once you hit the age of 60, you should also go for eye screenings at least every two years to keep your eye health intact.
If you notice changes in your eyesight, you may have cataracts. Common symptoms include blurry vision, “faded” color spectrum, a persistent glare, and eyesight that gets worse at night. These symptoms are also shared with a number of other eye diseases, so it is important to visit your eye care practitioner to confirm your diagnosis.
If you’re one of the many people who develop cataracts, you’re in luck. Cataract surgery is a very painless, effective surgery with new developments in eye medicine. In the past, doctors would simply remove the faulty lenses, leaving patients without a lens to focus vision. As a result, patients reported poor, blurry vision. Now, surgeons replace the old lens with a clear plastic artificial lens, which can actually eliminate the need for glasses. In fact, the new lenses are so effective that 90 percent of people who have had surgery report improvement in eyesight.