No matter how old you are, it's important to take care of your vision. Even if you don't need corrective lenses, there are several eye conditions that can develop as you age, making it important to get regular vision care. Cataracts are especially common, but they're highly treatable. Here's what you should know about cataracts and the most common treatment methods.
In a healthy eye, the lens is clear and helps the cornea focus light on the retina. When light hits the retina, electrical signals travel to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain uses these signals to produce images. A cataract is a clouding of the lens that makes it difficult to read, drive and do other activities requiring good vision. The National Eye Institute estimates that half of all white Americans develop cataracts by the age of 75. By age 80, approximately 61% of Hispanic Americans and 53% of Black Americans have developed cataracts.
The good news is that cataracts develop slowly, so you may not need treatment right away. If you do need treatment, several options are available, all of which have high rates of success.
Prescription glasses don't cure cataracts, but they can improve your vision, giving you more time to decide if you should have surgery. If you already have glasses, you're likely to need a stronger prescription once a cataract develops. You may also need to have your prescription adjusted for nearsightedness, which commonly occurs in people with cataracts.
If you need glasses, visit your local optometrist and spend some time trying on frames to see which styles look best on you. Rimless frames are less noticeable than full-frame and semi-rimless glasses; they're also lightweight and easy to match to your jewelry and accessories. If you want to make a bold statement, however, you may want to purchase a colorful pair of full-frame glasses that really stand out against your face.
When your glasses are ready, make sure you try them on to ensure they fit correctly. You may have to ask the technician to make a few adjustments before you're ready to wear your new glasses for driving and other activities. Once you're confident the glasses have improved your vision, you can venture outside Autumn View Gardens and see everything Creve Coeur, Missouri, has to offer.
Although cataracts develop slowly, they do tend to get worse as you get older. If a cataract is impairing your ability to do things in your assisted living apartment or get out and enjoy your favorite activities, an ophthalmologist may recommend surgery. In some cases, people with cataracts need surgery not because their vision has gotten much worse, but because they have other eye conditions requiring treatment.
The type of surgery you need depends on the density of your cataract. Most people get a procedure known as phacoemulsification. During the surgery, a specialist makes an opening in the affected eye and breaks up the lens with a laser or with high-frequency sound waves. Once these fragments are removed, the specialist replaces the cloudy lens with an artificial implant.
In some cases, the lens is too dense to break into smaller pieces, so the specialist performs extracapsular cataract surgery instead of the phacoemulsification procedure. Instead of breaking up the lens and removing the fragments, the specialist makes a larger opening and uses it to remove the entire lens. Once the lens is removed, it's replaced with an implant.
While you're recovering from cataract surgery, you may experience itching, watering, light sensitivity, mild discomfort and blurry vision for the first two days or so. Your ophthalmologist may also ask you to put drops in the affected eye every day for several weeks. These drops don't just lubricate the eye; they reduce the risk of infection and prevent the amount of pressure inside your eye from increasing, which can help you avoid complications.
It's common to have some activity restrictions for a few weeks after having a cataract removed, as doing strenuous exercise or lifting heavy things can increase the amount of pressure in your eye. Your doctor may also ask you to avoid activities that increase the risk of eye injuries. For example, if you enjoy playing tennis, you may have to wait a while to play your next game. Getting hit in the face with a tennis ball could injure your eye, setting back your recovery and increasing your discomfort.
Although the thought of surgery makes many people nervous, cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures performed on people in the United States. The surgery can restore your vision and help you get back to doing the things you love.
If you're not ready for surgery, there are a few things you can do to slow the development of a cataract and improve your overall eye health. Quitting smoking is one of the most important, as it's a major health risk. You should also get regular eye exams, keep the sun out of your eyes and have your eyes dilated every 24 months once you turn 60. Dilation helps ophthalmologists check for things like macular degeneration and glaucoma.