Eye Diseases Cataracts

Statistics show that more than 50 percent of people 80 years or older living in the U.S. currently have cataracts or have had cataract surgery in the past. Cataracts can impair vision and greatly impact a person’s quality of life and ability to perform everyday activities.

What is a Cataract?

Our eyes contain clear lenses that help focus light onto our retinas. These lenses are located directly behind our irises and pupils and are essential to vision.

The lenses in our eyes are comprised mostly of water and protein. Normally, the protein is arranged in such a way as to let light pass through. However, as we age, the protein may clump together and begin to cloud areas of the lens. This clouded area is a cataract. With time, cataracts can grow and significantly hamper vision.

Cataracts

Cataract Symptoms

Cataract symptoms can include:

  • blurred vision
  • difficulty seeing at night
  • double or multiple vision in one or both eyes
  • dulling of colors
  • halos around bright lights
  • light sensitivity.

Since many of these symptoms can also be a sign of other eye problems or eye diseases, it is important to contact your eye doctor for an accurate diagnosis if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Causes of Cataracts

In addition to aging, statistics show that the following can increase your chances of getting cataracts:

  • diabetes
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun
  • eye injuries
  • family history of cataracts
  • obesity
  • taking certain drugs, such as corticosteroids.

Congenital Cataracts

In the U.S., a very small percentage of infants, approximately.04 percent of all children, are born with cataracts in one or both eyes. When cataracts are present at birth, they are called congenital cataracts. While there is no known cause of congenital cataracts, a family history of congenital cataracts might be a contributing factor.

In some cases, congenital cataracts will not affect vision. However, others can lead to blindness. If your child is diagnosed with congenital cataracts it is extremely important to talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Cataracts in Dogs

Interestingly, other mammals, including dogs, can also suffer from cataracts. Breeds that typically develop cataracts include:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Standard Poodle
  • Welsh Springer Spaniel.

Cataract surgery can be performed on dogs with great success, although the dog will not be able to see as clearly as he did before the onset of his cataracts. Currently, no other treatment except cataract removal exists for cataracts in dogs.

Preventing Cataracts

While you might not be able to totally prevent cataracts, you can reduce your chance of getting them. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol.
  • Visit your eye doctor at least every two years after you reach the age of 60 to check not only for cataracts but also for other eye diseases related to aging.
  • Wear sunglasses that feature at least 99 percent UVA and UVB protection as well as a hat with a wide brim when you are outside.

Treating Cataracts

If you are diagnosed with cataracts, your doctor might suggest that you wear glasses to help improve your vision. However, if the cataracts have become so severe that your vision is significantly impaired, he might suggest cataract surgery.

Two main types of cataract surgery exist today:

  • Extracapsular Surgery: In this cataract surgery, the doctor makes an incision in the side of the cornea and removes the cataract in one piece. Next, he will remove the lens via suction.
  • Phacoemulsification: In this cataract surgery, a doctor will insert a device into your eye via a small cut on the side of your cornea. This device will transmit ultrasonic waves, which will break down your lens and the cataract. The doctor will then remove the fragments via suction.

No matter which surgery you have, after removing your lens and cataract, the doctor will often replace the lens with an artificial lens. The artificial lens is comprised of clear plastic. It requires no care and becomes a permanent part of your eye.

The costs of cataract surgery range according to the type of surgery that you choose and the severity of your cataracts. However, cataract removal is usually covered by insurance.

Cataract Surgery Risks

Risks are involved in any type of surgery. While cataract surgery complications do occur, they are not frequent. Make sure that you consult your physician about cataract surgery risks before you have your surgery.

Cataract surgery complications can include:

  • double vision
  • edema, or corneal swelling
  • glaucoma
  • hemorrhaging or bleeding
  • infection
  • retinal detachment, particularly for patients who are nearsighted.