JUNE is Cataract Awareness month.
This month is one of many that lends itself to focusing and raising awareness about something important to all of us – OUR EYES. June caters predominantly to the importance of understanding and realizing what a cataract is and how it can affect our lives. A cataract is a clouding of the lens of your eye. As illustrated in the image below the hazing of the lens begins to change the physical characteristics of the eye. The hazing of the normally clear lens can create a loss of clarity in vision. Many people who have cataracts would describe looking through their affected eye(s) similar to looking through a foggy or frosted-over window. Cloudy vision caused by cataract affecting the eye can make it more difficult for persons to read, drive their vehicles (especially in the dark with bright lights in the distance), or see detail like smiles upon loved ones faces. Most cataracts will form slowly and tend to not disturb vision until they have been untreated for quite some time. At first, strong lighting and prescription glasses may help reduce the effects of cataracts, but eventually, surgery may be needed to repair the damaged lens of the eye. This being said, cataract surgery is generally one of the safest surgeries and a highly effective procedure. Often signs of the development of a cataract appear as cloudy or blurry vision. These may eventually progress into dimming or yellowing of light, sensitivity to bright lighting or haloing or haze around lights, and the change of colors. If left unchecked some may see frequent changes in eyeglass or contact prescription strength, increased difficulty to see normally at all, and even double vision or other visual disorientation.
The first signs tend not to bother many and often people are not even aware they have a cataract beginning to develop. As the cataract grows larger and begins to damage more of the lens it distorts the way your optical systems work and can highlight the now more obvious signs of damage. The best way to prevent cataracts from becoming an issue is to make sure you keep up-to-date with your ocular and visual health. DigiVision Optical offers a variety of services to test visual acuity on your own time and encourages everyone to take better control of their eye health. Getting your sight tested every 4-6 months as you begin to notice any symptoms can help you identify any changes in your vision. If you begin to develop sudden changes in vision such as double vision, light flashing, pain, headaches, or drastic prescription changes it’s best to consult a physician to best address your next steps.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cataracts affect more than 24.4 million Americans aged 40 and older. They state that by age 75, approximately 50% of all Americans will have developed cataracts. Cataracts themselves are typically formed when aging or injury damages the tissue that composes the eyes lens. Several genetic disorders and optical related surgeries can also increase your likelihood and rate of cataract development the damage to sight it may cause.
The lens, where the cataract its self begins, is directly behind your iris (the colored part of your eyes) and works to focus the light that passes into your eye. The lens’s main job is to produce clear, sharp images onto the retina by funneling and focusing the light properly. The proper light delivery from the lens allows the retina to function like a camera’s sensor, or film, and take in light-sensitive information.
As we age our eyes can become more rigid, less malleable, and our lenses can become less transparent and thicker. Age-related conditions and various medical conditions can cause the tissues within the eyes to begin to break down, causing clumping, which can create the view of clouding in the lens.
As this continues the clumping begins to act like frost on the glass, diffusing the light and dampening the light preventing a sharply defined image from reaching the retina. As a result, your vision slowly deteriorates until you cannot see at all as no light can pass through a fully hazed lens. Cataracts most commonly generate in both eyes, however often at different speeds - which can cause varying vision differences between each eye.
There are a variety of commonly seen cataracts and the most common four include: 1. Nuclear Cataracts which may at first cause nearsightedness or temporary improvement in vision but quickly yellows and clouds vision. These are most commonly seen at the center of the lens. 2. Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts affect the back of the lens and most often starts right in the path of light. These often reduce vision in light, and cause halos in vision. These tend to be the fastest progressing cataracts. 3. Congenital Cataracts are medical anomalies that cause some to be born with cataracts or develop them in their childhood years. These may be associated with in utero infections or traumas or transferred through DNA due to genetic susceptibility. 4. Cortical Cataracts form on the sides of your lens and most often appear as wedge-shaped streaks that eventually extend until they cause a blockage of vision. These cataracts can all be caused by genetic or contracted conditions as well that can put a strain on various parts of the eye, or as stated previously just routinely as we increase in age. A variety of risk factors present themselves and like many other eye related worries are most heavily centered around blood pressure and viscosity. As you increase in age any predisposition to diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, drug use, or obesity can put you at a higher risk. The prolonged use of certain steroidal medication or previous optical surgeries can also land you at risk. Luckily, prevention methods do exist and are often easily accessible. The first and most important in the determination of any changes in your eye health and vision is regular eye examinations both for sight and for the development or changes of cataracts by a professional. Eye care professionals can both identify the presence of a cataract or recognize changes in the eye that could lead to the possibility of cataract development. Quitting smoking paired with a healthier lifestyle can slow the development of cataracts in many as well as provide overall health benefits. One of the easiest ways to protect your eyes is also affordable and fashionable – WEAR SUNGLASSES. Ultraviolet light from the sun may contribute to the development of cataracts. Sunglasses rated to block UVB rays can help protect your eyes while you’re outdoors.
Making sure to take visual acuity tests at least twice a year can help you notice changes in vision that allow your doctors to see a large unexplained change that could help to identify and diagnose Cataracts.
For more information on Cataracts and Cataract Surgery visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology page here