My Mom stopped driving at night when she was in her late 50s because the glare of approaching headlights was almost blinding. Her local optometrist explained that she had developed cataracts that had worsened over time and would require surgery to preserve her vision.
She was referred to an eye surgeon who performed laser surgery to remove the cataracts. This procedure improved Mom’s sight, but she was never completely comfortable driving at night, in spite of the surgery.
Considering many of our clients contend with visual impairment due to cataracts and June is Cataract Awareness Month, I decided to clarify some cataract facts for aging adults.
What are cataracts?
According to the non-profit organization, Prevent Blindness, “Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens that blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye.”
The National Eye Institute says that there may be no early symptoms of cataracts, but the following noticeable changes typically occur as cataracts develop:
- Cloudy or blurry vision.
- Colors that look faded.
- Difficulty seeing at night.
- Lamps, sunlight, or headlights are seemingly too bright.
- Halos appear around lights.
- Double vision (this may diminish as cataracts worsen).
- Frequent changes to prescription eyeglasses.
What are the 4 types of cataracts?
Johns Hopkins Medicine describes 4 types of cataracts:
- Age-related cataracts – The majority of cataracts are related to aging.
- Congenital cataracts – Babies can be born with cataracts and some children can develop them as they grow, often in both eyes. Some congenital cataracts do not affect vision, but other do and need to be removed.
- Secondary cataracts – These occur in conjunction with other diseases, like diabetes. Secondary cataracts have also been linked to steroid use.
- Traumatic cataracts – An injury to one or both eyes may cause a traumatic cataract. Traumatic cataracts can happen either immediately after an eye injury or potentially, years later.
Who is at risk for cataracts?
Primary risk factors include:
- Age – Age is the greatest risk factor for cataracts. Age-related cataracts may develop between 40-50 years old.
- Where you live – Recent studies have shown that people who live in higher altitudes are more at risk of developing cataracts.
- Too much sun exposure – People who spend more time in the sun develop cataracts sooner than others.
What causes cataracts?
Experts are not completely sure what causes cataracts, but they identify the following possible causes:
- Too much time in sunlight
- Steroid use
- Certain diuretic use
- Certain major tranquilizers
“For many of the possible causes, more research is needed to set apart the effect of the disease from the effect of the medications,“ says Johns Hopkins Medicine.
How are cataracts treated?
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
- Your age.
- Your overall health and medical history.
- How sick you are.
- How well you can handle specific medications, therapies, and procedures.
- How long the condition is expected to last.
- Your opinion or preference.
“In its early stages, loss of eyesight caused by cataracts may be helped with the use of different eyeglasses, a magnifying glass, or stronger lighting. When these actions are no longer helpful, surgery is the only effective treatment available. A cataract only needs to be removed when loss of eyesight gets in the way of your everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. You and your eye healthcare provider can make that decision together.”
Cataract surgery is one of the most common, effective, and safest ways to treat this condition. Cataract surgery involves swapping out the cloudy lens with a new lens. If cataracts are present in both eyes, surgery is performed on each eye on two separate visits.
North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care said, “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 30 million Americans have cataracts. That’s more than twice the total number of people with glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration – combined.”
Additionally, “Symptoms and vision loss from cataracts often start as early as age 40. The likelihood of developing cataracts doubles in your 50s and doubles again in your 60s. By the age of 80, more than 50% of Americans have cataracts.”
Because we live in the Sunshine State, we have a large population of seniors, and too much time in the sun may cause cataracts to develop, I encourage you to keep a close eye on your vision health (pun intended), by visiting your healthcare provider or optometrist regularly.
At Home Helpers®, our exceptional caregivers regularly assist seniors with visual impairments due to cataracts or other health conditions. If any of our in-home care services would be of benefit, I gladly offer a FREE Consultation to discuss specific needs and create a personalized care plan to help make life easier for the visually impaired in the Clearwater area.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have been ranked among the Home Care Pulse Top 100 Leaders in Experience for home care providers in 2023 and to have received the Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award 2023, the Best of Home Care® Employer of Choice Award 2023, and the Best of Home Care® Leader in Experience Award 2023.
We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson, and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539
Johns Hopkins Medicine
North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care