Health & Wellness

Recognizing Cataracts

Watch for Vision Changes as You Age

As life goes on, we all start to notice certain changes that are a natural part of aging. Maybe our joints aren’t as flexible as before, or our hearing just isn’t what it used to be. Our vision, too, may be less sharp than it once was.

One cause of impaired eyesight later in life is cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye. People with cataracts may notice cloudy vision or halos around lights when driving at night. If left untreated, cataracts can greatly limit vision. In fact, some people with severe cataracts may only be able to tell the difference between light and dark.

Cataracts are common in older adults. About half of all Americans will either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery by the time they reach age 80.

“I don’t usually think of cataract as an eye disease. In most cases, it’s simply a normal aging change of the eye,” says Dr. Rachel Bishop, an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) at NIH. “Typically, cataracts don’t cause damage to the eye the way most eye diseases do.”

Early symptoms of cataract can be improved with eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses. If these steps don’t help, surgery is the only effective option for treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a plastic lens.

Cataract procedures are among the most common surgeries performed in the United States. Most patients recover in just a few weeks, and many have improved eyesight after a few days. Recent advances have allowed doctors to tailor new lenses to patients and help reduce the need for eyeglasses after surgery.

The decision to have cataract surgery is a personal one that should be made between you and your doctor. Some experts advise that cataracts be removed only when vision loss interferes with your everyday activities, such as driving, reading or watching TV.

The best way to prevent or delay cataracts is to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Try wearing sunglasses or a hat with a brim. Researchers also believe that good nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related cataract. They recommend eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts and other healthy foods. Also, don’t smoke, because smoking may speed cataract development.

To screen for early signs of eye disease, Bishop recommends that everyone have a dilated eye exam at age 40, even if your vision seems fine. Once you’re in your 60s, a dilated eye exam is usually advised every year.

“Some people think reduced vision is just an unavoidable part of normal aging,” says Bishop. “It isn’t. If you notice your vision isn’t as good as it used to be, you should see your eye doctor.” Since many serious eye diseases have no early warning signs, it’s also important to make regular eye exams part of your standard health care routine.

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Wendell Keith
7 years ago

For anyone considering cataract surgery, it may not be necessary. Any doctor who says that surgery is the only answer needs to check out a website for Vision Clarity drops with N-acetyl carnosine. Use the first two letters of the name with drops. It is a .com site and the letters to the company tell it all. Works on floaters also. I have just started using them, I’m 63, and just found out that I need to use four drops a day instead of two, but my cataracts haven’t gotten worse.

7 years ago

My honorable doctor said I had to have cataract surgery. I said, “No, I want rincoln.” He insisted I have cataract, so I went with the cataract instead of the rincoln. Glad I did. I now like cataract better than rincoln.

roger chaffee
7 years ago

had the removal of cataracts from both eyes abt 3 years ago, all was great. now my vision is double/blurred. my dr. said after trying two new glasses, same problem.after more test, I’ve been told that I have dry eyes. i’m on #5 ALREX 0.2% sus. seem like its working,BUT its costly………………..

Arthur H Nicander
7 years ago

I am 72 year old male living alone. I had cataract surgery done on my left eye 12 July and right eye on 19 July this year, the day after I was seeing better without my glasses, but do need reading glass because of astygmatism still need to wear glasses but for most of the time I don’t need to wear glasses. I have worn glasses since I was 5 or 6 old. My teacher advised my parents to have my eyes checked. I see as well now without glasses like I did with them. I am happy with the… Read more »

Carol Allen
7 years ago

I’ve heard about a new technique for cataract surgery where the cutting of the lens is done by a laser guided machine. The cut heals ten times faster than the cut done manually. Also, you’re less likely to get a detached retina as one of the side effects. Read where 125,000 cataract surgeries have already been done using this new machine. I need cataract surgery but I’m waiting till this new machine comes to my area. Would like more information on it. Don’t want to be a guinea pig, but don’t want to miss out on new technology, if it’s… Read more »

7 years ago

My Dad had cataract surgery on both eyes. And was very happy with the out come. And a friend had the surgery a few years ago and had the best of lens choice put in and has had nothing but problems. So my Dad had what he could afford – the cheaper and is extremely happy and my friend who could afford a more expensive lens is extremely upset. So as the one gentleman wrote do research and talk to others who have had the surgery before jumping into something that effects something so wonderful as your eyesight. And yes,… Read more »

Lynne Ghioto
7 years ago

My husband probably waited too long for his cataract surgery. His vision was impaired even during the day. However after surgery, my husband, who has worn glasses since he was a kid, now has 20/10 vision! He’s just sorry he didn’t have the surgery earlier.

Bill Willis
7 years ago

I had first cataract removed at 61. Poor result. Second Ophthalmologist said surgery was premature. I recommend researching as much as you can and waiting until cataract is really bad before considering surgery. Also get two independent Ophthalmologists opinions before electing surgery. I now see better from my eye with the remaining cataract than the eye with the plastic lens. I will wait as long as I can before having the second cataract removed.

Richard Gilmore
7 years ago

At 63 I just had Prelex eye surgery to first remove cataracts and hopefully no longer need glasses. It was very successful. I no longer need reading glasses and the cataracts are gone. My eyesight is almost where it was 35 yrs ago.

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