June is cataract awareness month! Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss and blindness worldwide. If you or a loved one have or are concerned about cataracts, there’s no better time than now to educate yourself about how to prevent blindness and vision loss due to cataracts. Make cataract awareness month 2018 count; learn about what causes cataracts, cataract symptoms, how to prevent cataracts, cataract surgery, and more.
What is a cataract?
Put simply, a cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye, which helps focus light (not unlike a camera lens). Cataracts are formed when the protein that occurs naturally in your lens bunches together in a particular area on the lens. This clump of proteins often grows slowly over time (although fast-growing cataracts do occur) and either causes a blurring of vision or, in extreme cases, blindness.
What causes cataracts?
Cataracts form for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is age. Half of all individuals 80 and older develop cataracts. For most people, cataracts do not begin forming until after they turn 60; however, cataracts can occur at any age.
That said, there are other genetic, health-related, and external factors that can increase your risk for developing cataracts. These include:
- Heavy drinking
- Excessive exposure to UV rays from the sun
- Exposure to radiation
- Eye trauma
- Eye infections
- Family history
- Steroid use
If you’re looking for more extensive information this cataract awareness month, we recommended performing additional research on what causes cataracts.
What are cataract symptoms?
Cataracts typically do not form quickly. Even if you’ve read everything you can during cataract awareness month, you may not know that you have cataracts until they’ve grown. Contact an ophthalmologist if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Cloudy or blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Double vision
- Frequent prescription changes
- Colors appearing faded
- Poor or worsening night vision
- Seeing halos around lights
What are the types of cataracts?
We often speak about cataracts as though all cataracts are the same. As part of cataract awareness month, we’d like to dispel this notion. There are four main types of cataracts, three of which are named for their location on the lens.
- Nuclear Cataracts: Nuclear cataracts occur in the center of the eye and may cause the lens to turn yellow or brown over time.
- Cortical Cataracts: Cortical cataracts develop on the outside (cortex) of the eye. This type of cataract causes opaque, white spots to form around the edge of the lens and then grow inward.
- Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts: Posterior subcapsular cataracts forms a cloudy area at the back of the lens and may progress more quickly than other types of cataracts.
- Congenital Cataracts: Congenital cataracts occur in children. They can form before birth and are likely caused by genetics.
How can I prevent cataracts?
Perhaps the most important information you can walk away with this cataract awareness month is knowing what you can do to prevent cataracts. Eye health and safety is critical for avoiding or delaying the onset of cataracts, and having regular eye exams is the best way to keep track of your eye health, prevent blindness, and reduce your potential for incurring vision loss.
Other ways you can help prevent cataracts include:
- Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet will reduce your risk for diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, and will be more likely to include vitamins C and E, which are beneficial for eye health. Avoiding heavy drinking and steroid use will also improve your diet and reduce your risk of cataract development.
- Stop smoking and avoid smokers: Smokers are two times as likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers.
- Protect your eyes from UV light: Excessive exposure to UV rays from the sun can cause cataracts. When outside, wear sunglasses with UV protection as well as a hat, even when it’s not hot.
Cataract surgery and cataract treatment options
What’s the best news to share about cataract awareness month? That you may be able to have your cataracts removed and see clearly again.
Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery in the United States. Traditional cataract surgery required a blade, which was used manually to make an incision in the eye and remove the cataract. While this method is still used, the most up-to-date procedure, known as blade-free cataract surgery, uses a laser and a customized, 3D image of your eye to provide an extremely safe and precise outpatient procedure that lasts around 10 minutes.
If your cataract evaluation determined that you need cataract surgery, you’re sure to have questions about what to expect during cataract surgery. Other popular questions include, “Is cataract surgery painful?” and can I have both cataract surgery and astigmatism? If you’re a cataract surgery veteran, you may want to know if you need cataract lens replacement, or if you can have multifocal lens implants after cataract surgery.
The web can provide answers to cataract awareness questions like these, but no two people’s eyes are exactly alike, and speaking with your ophthalmologist is critical to maintaining your eye health.
Spread the word: June is cataract awareness month!
If cataract awareness month 2018 doesn’t affect you personally, it almost certainly affects someone you know. To help prevent blindness and vision loss, make sure that you, your family, and your friends are all getting regular eye exams.
And if you or someone you know needs cataract surgery in Houston, rest assured that, thanks to Eye Center of Texas, thousands of Houstonians have enjoyed clear and renewed vision. Over 275 Houston-area eye doctors refer their patients only Eye Center of Texas, and Dr. Mark Mayo is listed as of the top 10 LenSx laser cataract surgeons in the United States.
To find out if cataract surgery is right for you, schedule an appointment today.