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Cataract awareness

It's June, which means it's Cataract Awareness Month. Are you aware that cataracts are the main cause of deteriorating vision among patients who are over 55 years old? Actually, more than fifty percent of those who are 65 or older have at the very least, partial cataract development. As stated by the National Eye Institute, by the time they reach 80 years old, more than 50 percent of all Americans will have had a cataract.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye.  There are three primary types of cataracts:  nuclear, cortical, and posterior subcapsular.  A nuclear cataract is a type of lens clouding that occurs in the central nucleus of the lens, and are most commonly associated with aging.  Cortical cataracts is lens clouding that starts in the peripheral part of the lens, and moves toward the central lens in a cortical “spoke-like” fashion.  Like the name implies, a posterior subcapsular cataract occurs in the posterior part of the lens.  Since the posterior part of the lens is very important to vision quality, posterior subcapsular cataracts can affect vision greatly.

The lens inside the eye works to focus light onto the retina, much the same way that non-digital camera lenses once focused light on film.  While a dirty camera lens would yield a poor quality image on the film, any significant lens clouding from a cataract can blur your vision.

Besides simply being age-related, other potential causes of cataracts include ultraviolet radiation, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, use of corticosteroid medications, and previous eye injuries.  Some studies have found higher dietary intakes of Vitamin E, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have reduced the risks of cataracts.  Wearing appropriate UV protective eyewear when outdoors is also believed to slow down potential cataract progression.

Fortunately cataract surgery is overwhelmingly successful at removing cataracts and restoring vision.  It is the most frequently performed surgery performed in the United States, with at least 3 million people undergoing cataract surgery annually.  During the surgery a surgeon uses ultrasound to break up the cloudy lens inside your eye, and replace it with a new artificial clear lens. 

The decision to proceed with cataract surgery is one made by the doctor and patient together.  If you feel that your vision has decreased and are worried that cataracts are the reason, have a complete eye exam with Dr. Lewis to determine the exact nature of your vision problems, and to discuss your options.