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August 24, 2016

Are You At Risk For Cataracts?

As we age, it becomes apparent that there is little to be done to stop the effect that time has on our bodies. Most people are caught up in what aging is doing to their skin, hair and figure to think about what's happening with their vision and the health of their eyes. It's no secret that aging causes a lot of changes in our vision - but what exactly are these changes? And how common are they really? Well, there are many things that happen to our eyes as we age. Reading up close becomes difficult, driving at night may be a challenge, and detail work may not be as easy as before. These are all extremely common changes as we age. But what about distorted, foggy and discolored vision? If you are experiencing these symptoms, you may have one of the most common eye conditions of all - cataracts.

What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts develop when the natural lens inside the eye becomes foggy and discolored. This fogging of the lens keeps light from getting into the eye, eventually causing blindness. Cataracts develop slowly over a period of years. Luckily, cataracts are treatable through surgery and any vision loss can be reversed.

How Common Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are responsible for about 51% of blindness worldwide. In the United States, there are approximately 25 million people over the age of forty with cataracts. By age 75, about half of Americans have cataracts. Although cataracts affect anyone from any background and any environment, researchers believe that some factors may influence cataract development. So, are you really at risk?

Am I at Risk of Developing Cataracts?

In short, everyone is at risk of developing cataracts. As of right now, there is no proven prevention method. However, there are some factors that researchers believe contribute to cataract development. Aside from age, risk factors include :
  • Smoking. Smoking creates health problems in many different parts of our bodies. The eyes are no exception. Researchers found that when comparing people who have never smoked to those who used to smoke and those who currently smoke, those who do not smoke have a lower risk of cataract development.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes is known to cause many health problems, especially with the eyes. Aside from higher risk of cataracts, those with diabetes are also more likely to develop glaucoma and retinopathy. Well-controlled blood glucose levels significantly lessen this risk.
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight. To protect your eyes and your skin, wear sunglasses and a hat when spending long amount of time outside.

These risk factors are not a guarantee that you will have cataracts. Not having these risk factors does not exclude you from developing cataracts either. The cause of cataracts is not yet completely understood, but researchers are constantly working to find out how to prevent this condition.

Cataracts and many other eye diseases can be detected at your annual eye exam with your family eye doctor. These exams are vital, as it is always best to catch eye disease early. Your family eye doctor will refer you to the specialists at Wolfe Eye Clinic when he or she feels you need increased medical treatment or surgical care. Our specialists in Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Ottumwa, West Des Moines, Ames, Marshalltown, Fort Dodge or Spencer are available to you, close to home.