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Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Cataracts

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According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), a cataract is a “clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision”. Over 22 million Americans age 40 and over have some form of it, but did you know it is also the leading cause of blindness in the world?

Here are the top ten things you need to know about cataracts:

  1. Cataracts are a clumping of proteins in the eye, which causes the lens, the clear part of your eyes, to cloud. This results in blurry vision. In age-related and congenital cataracts, this happens naturally over time.
  2. A cataract can occur in one or both eyes, and is not transferrable.
  3. Age is a dominant factor in cataracts, but there are others as well. A secondary cataract can form after surgeries or as a result of another medical condition like diabetes. Traumatic cataract occurs after an eye injury. Congenital cataract occurs in babies and children. The final factor is radiation cataract and it occurs after exposure to certain types of radiation.
  4. There are four primary cataract risk factors: age, hypertension and other diseases, individual behaviors like smoking and the use of alcohol, and environmental factors such as extensive sunlight exposure.
  5. Symptoms include: cloudy or blurred vision, colors appear washed out or faded, glaring where lights seem too bright, poor or limited night vision, multiple images or double vision (this usually occurs early in a cataract and may fade as the size of the cataract increases), and frequent eye glass or contact prescription changes. As these can also be symptomatic of other problems, ensure that you meet with an eye specialist as soon as possible.
  6. A cataract can be discovered through thorough eye exams that comprise of pupil dilation, traditional eye exams, and tonometry. Dilating the pupil of your eye is necessary to ensure accurate measurement of the optic nerve and retina for disease and damage. Tonometry is the measurement of pressure inside your eye. They may provide numbing drops during this test.
  7. It’s important to get treatment as early as possible. Improvement of early symptoms through bright lighting, glasses that limit glare, magnifying glasses, and more can help slow the progression of a cataract. The final option is surgery if these do not work.
  8. Cataract surgery involves the removal of the affected lens and substituting it with a synthetic one.
  9. There are two types of cataract surgery: phacoemulsification (or phaco, for short) and extracapsular surgery. Both surgeries involve cutting into the cornea, but phaco is a much smaller incision and results in a faster recovery.
  10. If the thought of surgery makes you nervous, please note that cataract removal is one of the most common, safest, and most effective types of operations performed in the United States. Nine out of ten patients regain their vision in the 20/20 to 20/40 range.