Cataracts don’t have to cloud your vision
February 19, 2009 · 4:18 PM
BY Todd Johnston, MD
For the Reporter
Cataract, a common condition as we age, is a clouding of the usually transparent lens in the eye. The first signs of a cataract may be nothing more than poor night vision and headlight glare. Over time, cataracts grow. The increased cloudiness can blur your vision and eventually rob you of the joy and ability to read, drive a car or watch a favorite movie on TV. Thanks to today’s surgical advances, clear vision can often be safely restored. In fact, cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the country, at 2.7 million annually.
What is a cataract? It develops in the lens of the eye, which is equivalent to the lens in a camera. This lens sits behind the iris and pupil, consisting mostly of water and protein. As we get older, the protein tends to clump together. The result is called a cataract. Light, which must pass through the lens to reach the retina, is partially blocked. The retina is responsible for sending nerve signals to the brain for interpretation of what we see. Depending on the size of the cataract, the reduced light makes vision blurry.
Another cause of age-related cataracts is lens discoloration. As we age, our clear lens can develop a yellow-brown cast. The “tinted” lens in turn can make color identification more difficult. Colors may appear faded.
Unfortunately at this time, cataracts cannot be prevented, and the only option to restore vision is surgery. There are ways to delay cataract formation including:
• don’t smoke;
• load up on foods high in antioxidants, such as fruit and dark green leafy vegetables;
• protect your eyes from ultraviolet sunlight with sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats;
• see your ophthalmologist for regular vision exams. Your eye care provider will also test for other age-related eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Cataracts can only be detected with a comprehensive, dilated eye exam. For optimal vision and eye health, have a dilated eye exam at least every two years; annually if you have diabetes or the beginnings of cataract or as recommended by your doctor.
If you need surgery, today’s advanced technology and surgical techniques minimize risk and discomfort and maximize vision improvement. In fact, greater than nine out of 10 people find their vision restored to a level somewhere in the range of 20/20 to 20/40, which is needed to pass most driving tests. For those for whom vision is not improved, this is usually due to previous health issues, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma.
New technology, such as premium intraocular lens implants, have also made it easier to both read and see distance without the need for eyeglasses after cataract surgery.
The Eye Center at Valley Medical Center has experienced eye surgeons that can take care of your cataracts and any other vision needs. For an appointment or more information call 425-656-5345.