January 21, 2014

Eye Disease - Cataracts

Cataracts used to be the most common eye problem I saw among the elderly, but I don't know if it is true any longer. When your eye's normally clear lens becomes cloudy, you have developed a cataract. Often it will start in one eye, but will eventually develop in both eyes. Cataracts are small at first and may not affect vision, but the denser they become; the more they will affect your vision. I know this as I am in the early stages and my ophthalmologist has given me a clear warning to keep my appointments. This I intend to do.

Risk factors for cataracts include:

  • Most cataracts are due to aging
  • Diseases, like diabetes
  • Eye injury or trauma
  • Eye surgery for another problem
  • Inheritance or pregnancy-related causes
  • Overexposure of the eyes to the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications

The most common cataract symptoms include:

  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • Faded colors
  • Increased glare from headlights, lamps, or sunlight
  • Poor night vision
  • Multiple images in a single eye, or double vision
  • Frequent prescription changes for your eyeglasses or contact lenses

For early cataracts, these steps may help:

  • Obtaining a new prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Using brighter lighting
  • Using magnifying lenses
  • Wearing sunglasses

You may help delay cataract development by avoiding overexposure to sunlight, wearing sunglasses with ultraviolet protection, and a wide-brimmed hat. These don't help everyone, but may be worth the effort. If your everyday activities are hindered by cataracts, your optometrist or ophthalmologist will probably recommend surgery. Don't go into a panic, as surgical cataract removal is one of the safest, most common, and most effective types of surgery. Delaying cataract surgery until it interferes with your quality of life is the recommended step and won't harm your eyes.

When you choose to have surgery, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist who can perform the surgery, if you don't already have one. As part of the procedure, the eye surgeon removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial clear lens. If both eyes are in need of surgery, one eye will be done first. A month or two later, the surgery on the second eye will be performed.

Be sure you follow the instructions you receive very carefully and contact the surgeon if something does not seem correct. Very seldom will there be a problem, but by following instructions, problems will generally not happen. I know I will be facing this in a few years, so I will write about it when it happens. If you are interested, use the Google search engine and type in cataracts. After a list comes up, near the top of the page, there will be the word 'Images' (normally the second word from the left) and click on this for images showing cataracts.

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