Senior Health: Cataracts

As we age, vision impairment is one of the most common physical losses. June is Cataract Awareness Month, and many are surprised to learn that cataracts are a leading cause of blindness among older adults in the United States. More than half of all Americans have cataracts by the time they are 80 years old. Vigilance about senior eyesight is important to catch conditions early for easier and more reliable treatment.

It can be easy to see since it often causes a cloud on the pupil that is visible to others as it progresses. Generally, a cataract does not cause pain, redness or tears. The following problems may be indicators that you have a cataract:

  • Hazy vision that may be worse in bright light
  • Weaker night vision
  • Uncomfortable glare from vehicle headlights or bright sunlight
  • A need for brighter light for reading, or you may be “dazzled” by strong light
  • Colors look faded or yellow You have blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, or the sense of a “film” over your eyes
  • A frequent change in eyeglass prescriptions that does not seem to help your vision
  • A milky or yellowish spot appears in your pupil

Cataracts typically form in both eyes, but do not usually develop at the same rate. The rate of growth varies and can be quick or slow, or may progress to a certain point and not get any worse. This means you may not notice large changes in eyesight right away.

There are four types of cataracts:

  • Age-related – 95% of cataracts are age-related, usually after age 40.
  • Secondary – Be aware that some medicines, eye disease, eye infection, or diseases such as diabetes cause cataracts.
  • Congenital – These are present at birth, usually caused by infection or inflammation during pregnancy; possibly inherited.
  • Traumatic – Lens damage from a hard blow, cut, puncture, intense heat or chemical burn may cause cataracts.

Your eye doctor will use several techniques to diagnose cataracts:

  • find out your general medical history
  • find out your specific eye history, including problems and symptoms
  • test your vision (visual acuity)
  • test your side vision (peripheral vision)
  • test your eye movement
  • test you for glaucoma (by measuring the eye’s internal pressure)
  • do a microscopic exam of the front of the eye (using something called a slit lamp) to assess the density of the cataract and how it interferes with light passing through the lens
  • widen (dilate) the pupils of your eyes to examine the retina, the optic nerve (which carries visual messages from the retina to the brain) and the macula (responsible for the best part of central vision)
  • test you to see how glare affects your vision

After your exam, the eye doctor will determine if you have cataracts, will have a better idea of how much they may be interfering with your vision, and will suggest the best treatments and lens replacements for you. Surgery may also be recommended – more than 2 million cataract surgeries occur every year in the U.S., with no complications in more than 95% of cases.

The key to preventing vision loss is regular eye exams. If you are 65 or older, you should get a complete eye exam every one or two years, even if you have no problem seeing well. Be sure to ask your eye doctor for a dilated eye exam.

If you have a senior loved one with diminished vision, they may need some help around the house, with food preparation, cleaning, or personal care. They may also need someone to run errands or drive them to store or doctor’s appointments. Give Assisting Hands Home Care serving Columbus, OH a call today to get the support you need.

 

Sources: ClearCare, PreventBlindness.org, American Family Physician, WebMD