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The Basics of Cataracts

Posted Sep 19 2011 11:37am

By Guest Author Brett Oliveira of

Eye The National Eye Institute estimates that more than 20.5 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from cataracts, with more than half of those over the age of 80 being struck by the disease. Just what are cataracts, and how can you prevent enduring their painful, life-altering symptoms?

Imagine your contact lenses being clouded with blinding amounts of dust, and staying that way. This gives you the basic idea of what cataracts are.

Cataracts are the cloudy distortion of your eye’s lens as changes occur to the natural proteins found within the lens, causing blurry vision disruptive to everyday activities and, in severe cases, eventual blindness.  This cloud (a thickening of the lens) blocks light from entering the retina, making vision impaired and friendly faces left unrecognizable without an appropriate prescription of eyeglasses or a heavy lighting.

How do I know if I have cataracts?

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to distinguish cataracts from other common eye disorders. However, the distinguishing symptom of cataracts is the appearance of a glowing halo around objects. Other common symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Colors being seen as less distinct and sharp
  • Inability to make out objects at night
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Distorted vision
  • Vision is foggy or appears as if you’re seeing through a haze
  • You experience any of these particular symptoms over the age of 40

There are several factors which may impact your cataracts treatment (nearsightedness, diabetes, etc.), all of which you should consult your eye doctor about.

But thankfully, cataracts are a treatable eye disease, meaning that, ideally, blindness should never be an outcome of your cataracts. Extreme cases of cataracts will require surgery, which has quickly become a relatively routine procedure taking no more than 30 minutes to complete. Candidates for cataract surgery should be aware that this is not the optimal choice if you have other serious eye diseases that may impact the severity or influences of your cataract. (Doctors’ ability to see and evaluate the retina post-surgery is often clouded.)

Although cataracts are universally thought to be an “old person’s” disease, they are often developed at birth and only cause noticeable problems later on in life. Whether over or under the age of 40, one should always be in-tune with their eyesight and any observed changes that may be taking place.

For more on what's happening in the life of Baby Boomers, go to the Blogging Boomer Carnival #225 .

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