What seniors need to know about them
As we age, our bodies begin to show signs of deterioration and send signals that prompt the need for medical care. The eye is certainly no different from any other part of our bodies in the aging process, and cataracts are a common manifestation of aging. A cataract is not a growth, but a clouding or opacification of the natural lens of the eye and is predominantly seen in those above age 65. While people in their 40s and 50s often have early findings of cataracts, it usually does not significantly affect the vision until later years. The amount and pattern of cloudiness and age of onset varies among individuals and with other contributing factors as described below. If the cloudiness is not near the center of the lens or not very dense, one may not even be aware that cataracts is present early on.
There are many different types of cataracts and accompanying symptoms that alert one for the need of medical care. The types of cataracts include subcapsular cataract occurring just inside the back surface of the lens, nuclear cataract forming in the central nucleus of the lens, and cortical cataract detected by white, wedgelike opacities starting in the periphery of the lens and reaching to the center in spoke-like fashion. The associated symptoms depend on the diagnosed type of cataracts. Some of the symptoms include:
• Cloudy or blurred vision
• Glare or light sensitivity
• Poor night vision caused by headlight glare and difficulty seeing in dim light
• Double vision in one eye
• Frequent prescription changes for glasses or contact lens
• Need for brighter light to read
• Fading or yellowing of colors.
As much as it is important to know the symptoms, it is equally important to know what cataracts are NOT:
• A growth or a film on the eye surface
• Caused by overusing the eyes
• Spread from one eye to another
• A cause of irreversible blindness.
Medical research has identified many contributing factors to the development of cataracts besides the predominant cause of aging. These include family history, other medical issues particularly diabetes and obesity, smoking, significant alcohol consumption, injury to the eye, medications like steroids, and long-term and unprotected exposure to sunlight.
When symptoms begin to appear in the early stages of cataracts, glasses may be sufficient to maintain visual acuity. As the cataracts progresses enough to seriously impair your vision and affect daily life, surgery is required. There is no medication that reverses cataracts. It is not true that cataracts need to be “ripe” before they can be removed or that they need to be removed just because they are present. surgery can also be indicated when decreased vision impairs performance of daily activities, including sight necessary to drive safely, to perform job duties, or for taking medications and the like.
Medical advancements are such that cataracts surgery has proven to be extremely successful in the removal of cataracts. Cataract surgery is usually performed under topical anesthesia, with minor sedation, as an outpatient procedure. The cloudy lens is removed from the eye, and in almost all cases, the focusing power of the natural lens is restored by replacing it with a permanent intra-ocular lens implant, or IOL. No sutures are needed. This delicate surgery is performed by ophthalmologists using a microscope, miniature instruments and other modern laser technologies. Improved vision is the result in over 98 percent of cases, unless there is a problem with the cornea, retina, optic nerve or other structures of the eye. Following surgery, patients are usually required to use eye drops and allow the physicians post-op review until healing has properly taken place.
Ophthalmologists recommend annual eye examinations for everyone over the age of 60. This allows preventative measures to be taken to help ward off some of the effects of aging on the eye. Other recommendations include avoiding UV light, overall health and nutrition, cutting out nicotine and managing screen time.
Dr. Bruce Henderson, cataract and glaucoma specialist with Highland Clinic Ophthalmology, has been practicing since 1986. He established the Eye Surgery Center in 2003, a facility for cataract, glaucoma and LASIK procedures. In addition to his private practice in Shreveport, Dr. Henderson serves patients in Minden and Springhill offices. He has been published numerous times in noted ophthalmology and surgical publications and has also served as clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport. For more information visit https://www. hendersoneyesite.com/cataract/ To schedule a consultation with Dr. Henderson, contact Highland Clinic Ophthalmology, 471 Ashley Ridge Blvd., Shreveport, 318-795-4770.