If you’re among the adults who are planning to remain vibrant and active as you age, we have some important health information about the health of your eyes and a common vision problem — cataracts.
By the time we are 60, more than half of all Americans will have a cataract beginning. Some people start to develop cataracts in their 40s, but the cataracts usually don’t affect vision until people are older.
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye. The lens is a clear structure in the front of the eye that sits behind the iris, the color part of the eye. The lens helps focus the light coming into the eye on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina’s nerves sense the light and send signals to your brain. The brain translates the signals into everything you see. The clouding of a cataract will make your vision blurry like a movie when the projector isn’t focused correctly.
You can have a cataract in one or both eyes, but the condition won’t spread from eye to eye.
Your eye lens is mainly water and protein. When the protein is in optimal condition, it is clear and transmits light into the eye without interruption.
As we age, the proteins in the lens start to clump together and the lens becomes cloudy. This cloudiness is the cataract. It grows over time and makes it harder to see.
Most people experience a discoloration of the lens. This can increase over time and make it harder to do things like read in dim light, distinguish colors or comfortably drive at night.
Along with age-related development, cataracts can develop:
Babies can be born with cataracts or develop them as children. If the cataracts are small, they may not affect vision.
If you develop cataracts, you may notice:
We can’t avoid the natural aging process of the eyes, which can lead to cataracts. Research has found that diseases such diabetes have been linked to a higher risk for cataracts.
You may be able to reduce your cataract risks by:
Since cataracts develop slowly, initially a change in glasses prescription or brighter lighting may help. When the cataract affects vision, surgery may become the best option. Visit with your eye care professional about your options.
If cataract surgery is a recommended option, during the surgery the cloudy lens will be removed and replaced with an artificial lens implant called an intraocular lens (IOL). Most patients only need glasses to read after the surgery.
The procedure will usually not require an overnight hospital stay.
If you have questions about your eyes or your vision, visit your eye care professional.
Regular annual vision exams for everyone in the family should be part of your routine health care planning. Many eye diseases can be successfully treated when diagnosed early.