Aging > Cataracts
Sense of sight is a very important concern for aging people. Maintaining proper eye health is essential for leading a productive life well into the golden years. Cataracts are a common health problem that typically affects the elderly, but with proper monitoring, major life disruptions can be avoided.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens. The lens’ primary job is to focus light into clear images. The lens is sealed inside the eye in a sort of bag, and as old cells die, some may become trapped inside the bag. When enough cells build up, vision becomes cloudy and images are no longer sharp and focused. This is a common problem and is considered to be a normal result of the aging process, though some eye injuries and diseases can also cause cataracts to form.
Cataracts are classified as three types. There are cortical, nuclear and subcapsular cataracts, the most common being nuclear. In the case of nuclear cataracts, the cloudiness forms around the center of the lens. This type of cataract is primarily formed by the natural aging process.
Cortical cataracts typically occur in diabetic patients, and are not necessarily associated with the aging process. In this case, the cataract forms in the lens cortex and gradually grows from the outside of the lens toward the center. Subcapsular cataracts being at the back of the lens, and the cloudiness gradually works its way forward. This type is also common in diabetics, as well as people who have take steroids or who suffer from sever farsightedness.
Common symptoms of cataracts include increased glare from the sun or from oncoming headlights during night driving. In the earliest stages, a cataract makes vision generally cloudy, and colors seem muted.
There are no proven explanations for why cataracts form, but there are several risk factors that can often predict their development. Diabetics and steroid users are at high risk, as are those who have prolonged exposed to cigarette smoke and air pollution. Alcoholics are also at higher risk than the general population.
When cataracts progress to the point of severely impairing vision, surgery can be performed to correct the condition. Cataract surgery is very safe and typically quite painless. Doctors remove the clouded lens and replace it with a plastic replacement called an intraocular lens. During this process, the eye is measured to determine the strength and size needed for the replacement lens. In an outpatient procedure, a small incision is made in the eye, and the natural lens is removed. The IOL is inserted and then the incision is closed.
After surgery, the patient typically must wear an eye patch for several days while the incision heals. When the patch is removed, vision should no longer be cloudy or impaired. If it is, an ‘after-cataract’ may be occurring, in which the capsule that once held the lens in place becomes cloudy. This common condition is easily treated through a simple laser surgery. Regular check-ups are an easy and important way to maintain eye health and to avoid unneeded discomfort or visual impairment as the aging process progresses.