The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list cataracts as the leading cause of age-related vision loss in the world. In North America, over half of the population over the age of 80 will have cataracts.
If you, a parent or senior loved one is concerned about this impairment, read on for more information about how to prevent and treat cataracts.
At the front of the eye is a lens that is normally clear and transparent. Light easily flows through this lens and what is seen is distinct and sharp. This lens is made up of a combination of protein and water. The protein typically stays in place and keeps the lens clear.
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In the elderly, however, the protein may form clumps and become sticky. These clumps of protein cause cloudy areas in the lens that can be similar to trying to look through a window that has a smear of grease. There can be blurry areas as well as clear areas. Some people will have overall blurry vision.
When the lens of the eye is blocked there is less light that will enter the eye, causing blurriness and cloudiness. The protein can also cause a brownish-yellow tint to objects.
Cataracts usually start out small and there may be only a small area of blurry vision. As the cataract grows, however, vision can become more limited.
Symptoms that are commonly seen with cataracts are:
Cataracts often appear gradually. The initial symptoms can usually be managed with new glasses, more light while reading, wearing sunglasses or using a magnifying lens to read small print.
Cataracts are a condition that commonly occurs in seniors.
Though we may not be able to completely prevent cataracts in the elderly, there are a few strategies that can be used to keep our eyes healthy.
The most common treatment for cataracts is surgery. The CDC estimates that over 6.1 million North Americans have had cataract surgery. The National Eye Institute states that cataract removal is the most common operation done in the United States, as well as the most effective and safest.
If you, a parent or senior loved one have symptoms or have been diagnosed with cataracts you will want to discuss surgery with your eye care professional. Many people may choose to delay surgery unless the vision loss is causing difficulties with activities like driving, reading and socializing.
90% of people who have cataract surgery experience improved vision.
Cataract surgery is often done as an outpatient procedure. The eye is numbed but the patient may still be awake. The cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a permanent artificial lens. When cataracts are present in both eyes, two separate surgery dates will be booked.
Recovery time is estimated at 6-8 weeks. Your loved one may benefit from additional help during the recovery time, including help with household chores, meal preparation and taking prescription eyedrops. Remember that blurred vision immediately following the surgery is common, but as the eye adjusts to the artificial lens, vision will often become brighter and clearer.
What has your experience with cataracts in the elderly been like? What suggestions do you have for treatment? We would love to hear your tips and any questions you may have in the comments below.