Cataracts is a disease of the eye that results in the clouding of the lens of the eyeball. Cataracts prevent clear images from appearing on the eye’s retina; causing mild, moderate, even severe blurred vision.
Typically an eye disorder associated with aging (over half of the people in America over age 80 have either had a cataract or cataract surgery), cataracts generally occur later in life as the lens structure within the human eye changes and gets older.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Since the lens of the eye works much like a camera lens, it’s vital that it remain clear and healthy for clear vision. Cataract symptoms appear in the visual field as hazy or blurred spots of vision.
Other cataracts symptoms include an increased sensitivity to glare from lamps, headlights or sunlight. Colors may start to look faded or dull. Poor night vision, “blind spots”, even frequent changes in your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses, all can be symptoms of cataracts.
Cataracts tend to develop slowly, sometimes barely affecting vision at all. Over time, they can be managed through corrective lenses and specialty eyewear. Sometimes cataract surgery may be required. That’s why it’s so important to have regular eye exams, especially on a regular basis as you age.
Cataract Surgery & Treatment
Cataract treatments can include stronger prescription glasses, the addition of anti-reflective coatings or photochromic lenses to better protect your eyes, even changes in everyday lighting conditions can all postpone or eliminate the need for cataract surgery.
If cataract surgery is required, it’s a comfort to know this is one of the most common (and safe) procedures performed today, with over 90% percent of people reporting improved vision after the procedure.
There are two types of cataract surgery, each designed to eliminate the cataract and usually replace the defective lens with an artificial lens. In cases where an artificial lens cannot be used, your doctor may prescribe high magnification corrective lenses or contacts to replace your lens function.
More About Cataracts
Though cataracts are often associated with aging – particularly men and women over age 60, people in their 40’s and 50’s are also more prone to developing cataracts. Research suggests that lifestyle factors like cigarette and alcohol use, diabetes and prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays could all contribute to lens yellowing with age, and cataracts. Find what eyewear is best for you using our interactive EyeGlass Builder.
Other types of cataracts include secondary cataracts from surgery for other eye disorders like glaucoma; cataracts that form as a response to eye trauma or injury; cataracts that develop after exposure to certain forms of radiation; and in some cases, cataracts are congenital – you’re born with them.
The point is – with cataract symptoms and treatment, as with all things eyecare-related – there’s no substitute for a comprehensive, regularly schedule eye exam to check for vision problems and maintain healthy sight.
DIABETES & VISION
Diabetes is a disease that affects the way we process food for energy and growth. With all forms of diabetes – type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes – the body has trouble converting sugar in the blood into energy, resulting in a host of potential health problems.
Diabetes can lead to a number of eye disorders, including cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy; an eye disease that affects the blood vessels in the all-important retina. This is the most common eye disorder among people with diabetes.
Since the retina is the light-sensitive region of the back of the eye responsible for processing visual images, diabetic retinopathy can affect your vision in mild, moderate or even severe ways.
Nearly 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy – and it is one of the primary reasons a comprehensive eye exam is strongly recommended each year for people diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes and Vision
Diabetes increases the likelihood that common diabetes-related vision problems or diseases might occur.
Diabetics are prone to developing cataracts (a clouding of the eye’s lens) at an earlier age, for example. And people with diabetes are almost 50% more likely to develop glaucoma, an eye disorder that damages the optic nerve often marked by an increase of internal eye pressure.
Macular edema (and macular degeneration) are also more common in diabetics due to malfunctioning blood vessels inside the macula – the middle region of the retina responsible for central, sharp vision.
That’s why there’s no separating diabetes and vision. If you have diabetes, then you should understand vision problems that increase in likelihood as a result of the disease.
Diabetes and Eyesight
You can’t have a discussion about diabetic eye problems without considering diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading contributor to blindness for adults in America.
Diabetic retinopathy involves swelling, leaking or abnormal growth of blood vessels in or near the retina. There are multiple stages to this disease, the earliest of which may not present any symptoms you can see.
Symptoms you can see include dark or black spots in your vision that increase over time, or severely blurred vision due to bleeding within the eye.
That’s why comprehensive eye exams are so important when thinking about diabetes and eye sight – both type 1 and type 2 diabetics are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, and the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop some form of the disease.
Treatments for diabetic retinopathy include replacement of the inner gel inside the eye (called a vitrectomy) and different kinds of laser surgery. A recent clinical trial also suggested that better control of blood sugar levels slows the onset and progression of the disease in many patients.
Over 21 million people in the United States have diabetes, with an estimated additional 6 million people unaware they have a form of the disease. What’s more, an estimated 54 million Americans ages 40 to 74 have pre-diabetes, a condition that puts them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Culturally, diabetes is three-times more likely among those of us with Hispanic heritage. In fact, one in ten Hispanic people have diabetes. Among Asian Americans between the ages of 45 and 65, diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death. Because Asian Americans are less likely to be obese, doctors are often late with the diagnosis. So regular eye exams are very important, since eye exams can often lead to early diagnosis of health issues like diabetes, hypertension and other conditions that impact all of us.
According to a recent American Optometric Association survey, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults ages 20 to 74.
Glaucoma is a general name for a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve of the eye. Glaucoma prevents the eye from sending accurate visual information to the brain.
Usually associated with gradual (and sometimes sudden) increases in pressure within the eyeball itself, glaucoma can result in partial or total blindness over time. The damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible, and it is currently the second-leading cause of blindness in Americans over age 40 in the United States.
Glaucoma is often called “the thief of sight” because glaucoma symptoms either go undetected or develop slowly over time. Glaucoma usually starts by attacking the outside of your vision. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to complete blindness in one or both eyes.
The most common eye problem linked to glaucoma is an increase in internal eye pressure. An increase in internal eye pressure doesn’t automatically mean you “have” glaucoma; only that you have a condition that could lead to it – that’s why a regular exam is so important.
There are a variety of optical tests that help to measure internal eye pressure. Learn more about glaucoma testing.
Glaucoma cannot be cured, although through early detection and regular eye exams, glaucoma treatment can stop or slow the disease. Glaucoma treatment can include regular daily eye drops or pills, conventional or laser surgery, or a combination of treatments as recommended by an eyecare professional.
Currently, glaucoma affects nearly 2.5 million Americans. And while anyone can develop glaucoma, the disease is most common in people over age 40, particularly African Americans. Glaucoma is five times more likely to affect African Americans than Caucasians, and roughly four times more likely to cause blindness.
In addition, people with a family history of glaucoma stand at a higher risk to develop the disease, and anyone over age 60, particularly Mexican Americans, faces an increased risk of glaucoma.
Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that affects the portion of the eye responsible for processing fine detail and providing sharp central vision (called the macula).
As a disease usually associated with aging, macular degeneration is also called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), though there are other, less common types of macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration symptoms include a gradual loss of central vision needed to perform everyday tasks like driving or reading, and a reduced ability to see small visual details like fine print or patterns.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans over age 60, and presents itself in two forms: dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. Of the two, the “dry” form is far more common. Both affect the center region of the retina, the light-sensitive area in the back of the eye responsible for processing images we see.
Macular Degeneration Symptoms
Macular degeneration symptoms vary based on the particular form of the disease (dry or wet), and the stage the disease at the time it is discovered.
Dry macular degeneration symptoms include: consistent, slightly blurred vision within your central visual field. You may have difficulty in recognizing faces. And have a sudden need for more light while reading or working. The dry form of this disease gets progressively worse, over time. Early detection of dry macular degeneration is critical to long-term treatment.
Wet macular degeneration symptoms include: a distortion of straight lines and an inability to focus properly on a single point within a grid. Wet macular degeneration is an advanced stage of the disease, and often results in blind spots and loss of centralized vision.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
There is currently no treatment for dry macular degeneration. Wet Macular degeneration treatment options exist that can slow the progress of the disease or improve vision based on the type of macular degeneration you are experiencing. To understand the risks and the limitations of all macular degeneration treatments, speak frankly with your eye doctor.
Dry macular degeneration treatment actually begins with routine eye exams, especially after age 60. The goal here is to catch the development of AMD early. If detected, you may be prescribed a specific mix of high-dose zinc and antioxidants that have shown an ability to slow the progression of the disease. Wet macular degeneration treatment can include a number of options; including laser surgery, light-activated dyes that are injected into the circulatory system, or drugs injected directly into the eye that inhibit the growth of abnormal blood vessels that cause the wet form of the disease. With any macular degeneration treatment, there are no guarantees that the disease can be stopped, no promises that a treatment won’t need to be repeated, and a sobering reminder that vision, once lost, is rarely restored.
Macular Degeneration Statistics
Currently, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in persons over age 60. Caucasians are far more likely to lose vision from AMD than African Americans, and studies show that obesity, smoking, and exposure to UV rays may also be risk factors for developing the disease.
Macular degeneration tends to affect women more than men, and has also been linked to heredity. Nearly 90% of all diagnosed AMD is the dry form.