By Zack Steele
Optometrists are often asked about cataracts, more often than not by baby-boomers. Usually the question is, “Will I get cataracts?” The answer is yes, we all do eventually. Cataracts are the most common eye disorder in North America. About 50 percent of people between 55 and 64, and 85 percent of people over 75, will have cataracts within a 10-year period. An opaqueness that develops in the lens of the eye, a cataract interferes with clear vision, affecting a person’s quality of life and even safety. Cataracts are usually diagnosed by an optometrist and can vary from extremely small areas of cloudiness to large opaque areas that cause a noticeable vision loss.
Experts are unsure as to the exact causes of cataracts. It’s known that a chemical change occurs in the eye that causes the lens to become cloudy, maybe due to advancing age or the result of heredity, an injury or a disease. Excessive exposure to UV radiation present in sunlight or the use of certain medications are also risk factors for the development of cataracts. Cataracts are most often found in persons over the age of 55, but they are also occasionally found in younger people, including newborns.
Cataracts typically develop without pain or redness. Symptoms begin as patients notice a blurred or hazy vision, the appearance of spots in front of the eyes, or the feeling of having a film over the eyes. A temporary improvement in near vision, the so-called “second sight,” may also occur, as well as increased sensitivity to glare, especially at night. Cataracts may develop slowly over many years or they may form rapidly in a matter of months. Some cataracts never progress to the point that they need to be removed.
Currently, there’s no proven method to prevent cataracts from forming. A recent study showed that even multi-vitamins had little or no effect on their development. Since UV light is a contributing factor, it’s recommended that patients’ glasses and sunglasses are treated to block out the UV radiation.
When cataracts first start to develop, modification in a patient’s pr Zack Steele is a 2003 graduate of the UAB School of Optometry. His practice, Trussville Vision Care, is located on Chalkville Road in downtown Trussville.