Cataract Facts for National Cataract Awareness Month

By , June 22nd, 2016

What is a Cataract and What Do They Look Like?

A cataract is a painless but progressive clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. When looking through a cloudy lens, vision seems fuzzy, like looking through a thick fog. Cataracts block light, making it difficult to see clearly. Over an extended period of time, cataracts can cause blindness.

What Age Do I Need to Start Worrying About Cataracts?

Cataracts can develop any time. Most people associate cataracts with aging after 70. However, the exact time when these cataracts begin to form varies. Cataracts most commonly start to develop between the ages of 50 and 70. Sometimes they may develop earlier if an eye injury occurs or if a person develops a medical condition.

Depending on a variety of factors, which include age, lifestyle, occupation and injuries, cataracts may form in one or both eyes. Cataracts usually grow denser with age.

How Many People Have Cataracts?

Cataracts are very common in older people. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 50 percent of US adults over age 65 have age-related cataracts. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.

The term “age-related” can be a little misleading. You don’t have to be a senior citizen to get this type of cataract. In fact, people can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s. But during middle age, most cataracts are small and do not affect vision. It is after age 60 that most cataracts cause problems with a person’s vision.

What Causes Cataracts?

The lens lies behind the iris and the pupil of the eye. It works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where an image is recorded. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is made of mostly water and protein and is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it.

But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.

Researchers suspect that there are several different causes of cataracts, such as smoking and diabetes. Or, it may be that the protein in the lens just changes from the wear and tear it takes over the years. Scientists are also researching a possible link between sun exposure and cataracts.

Can Cataracts Be Prevented?

Cataracts, in general, cannot be prevented, especially those that are age-related. However, annual eye exams can preempt their onset before vision loss becomes severe. To find out more about cataracts and how they are treated, click here speak to one of our specialists at Kleiman Evangelista Eye Centers today.

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