Wellness and Prevention of CataractsThursday, May 3, 2012 9:02
If one lives long enough, chances are that he/she will develop some sign of an age-related cataract. There are other factors such as genetics that can play a role. If both of the patient’s parents had cataracts, there is a greater likelihood that the patient will probably develop them as well. Certain illnesses such as diabetes, long term use of certain medications such as steroids, prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, or an injury to the eye can all cause a cataract to develop. Because of all these differing circumstances, the age of onset of cataracts is highly variable. They most often become noticeable in a patient’s 60s, but can occur at any age. In fact, the second most common age group to be affected is the very young whose cataracts are congenital in nature.
The cause of most cataracts is unknown; they are probably a result of the aging process. However, a cataract may be caused or accelerated by an injury to the eye, inflammation within the eye, certain disorders of blood chemistry, and the consumption of certain medications.
What can be done to slow down or prevent the formation of cataracts? In the case of diabetes, better control of the disease has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetic complications of the eye, one of which is cataracts. Because studies have shown that prolonged exposure to sunlight may increase the risk of developing certain types of cataracts, it is advisable to wear sunglasses with ultraviolet absorption and a large brimmed hat when outdoors. There is evidence that good nutrition, and maybe even vitamin intake in the form of a daily multivitamin tablet, can reduce the risk of cataract formation. Studies have shown that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also increase the rate of cataract development.
Symptoms of Cataracts
The common symptoms of cataracts include: painless and gradual blurring of vision, glare and light sensitivity, frequent eyeglass prescription changes, double vision or “ghosting” in one eye, the need for brighter light to read, poor night vision, and the appearance of fading or yellowing of colors. Because the amount and location of cloudiness within the lens can vary, one may not be aware that a cataract is present if the clouding is not within the center of the lens.
The lens may be divided into three parts: the central nucleus, the surrounding cortex and the enveloping capsule. Each part, independently or together, may cloud or become opaque, resulting in a cataract. The cataract that affects the central nucleus is called nuclear sclerosis and is the most common cataract in old age. It can often take years to progress. It tends to affect the center of the lens giving a yellowish tint to it; patients complain that objects appear dimmer.
The cataract that affects the cortex, called a cortical cataract, tends to occur in the peripheral part of the lens, as spoke-like opacities. These are also slow to progress with symptoms being more of glare. Oncoming car headlights and bright sunny days cause considerable glare and decreased vision.
Subcapsular cataracts, or more specifically posterior subcapsular cataracts, are the last major type. The cloudiness in this type of cataract is located near the back surface of the lens often directly in the center.
A thorough office eye examination, using a special microscope called a slit lamp, will detect the presence of any type of cataract. Both an ophthalmologist and an optometrist are trained in using this equipment and diagnosing cataracts. Only an ophthalmologist (a medical eye doctor/surgeon) has the training to treat a cataract.