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Preventing and Treating a Common Eye Disorder: A Cataract Primer

Posted by Carolyn Harmer on Aug 25, 2015 3:00:00 PM

Cataracts are a common occurrence in seniors as they age. Learn what they are, how they alter your vision, and how to counteract their effects.The lens of the eye is made up of clear tissue that we see through, but this tissue can become damaged by injury or advanced age. These areas of damage get denser and change how light enters our eyes, forming what is known as a cataract. The condition can give a person’s vision a fuzzy or foggy effect; some compare it to looking through a dirty window.

By the time they reach 80 years of age, more than half of Americans have developed this common effect of the aging process. Although cataracts do not generally cause pain or eye irritation, they can have a profound effect on a person’s vision over time, potentially limiting his or her capabilities. Serious vision impairment caused by cataracts can even threaten a person’s well-being, making it unsafe for him or her to drive or raising the risk of a fall in the home. Read on to discover how you can lower your risk for cataracts and protect your vision.

At a Glance

Cataracts generally develop so slowly that people may not notice their vision is diminishing. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Lack of sharpness and clarity. Vision may appear blurry or dim, and colors may appear more muted or yellow in tone.
  • Glare effects. The effect of a cataract is especially pronounced around strong, direct light sources. Some experience sensitivity to glare, or see a ‘halo’ effect around a light source. This may be especially troublesome at night.
  • Frequent vision changes. Your prescription may be changing more often. If you experience sudden developments, such as double vision or blurriness, contact your doctor right away.

Your doctor can perform several tests to determine whether you have a cataract. A simple eye chart test can reveal any impairment, or examinations with tools such as special lamps, magnification, and eye dilation may be performed.

Cataract Prevention

Everyone is at some risk of developing cataracts, and this risk increases with age. However, there are other factors that may further increase your cataract risk. Some cannot be controlled, such as previous injury or surgery in the eye, or use of certain medications or radiation therapies. However, others are lifestyle factors that can be corrected and help reduce your risk.

To help lower your cataract risk, you can:

  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake
  • Wear sunglasses outdoors
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Keep any chronic conditions well managed
  • Eat a plant-rich diet full of antioxidants and other healthy nutrients
  • Get regular eye exams for early detection and optimal eye health

Improving Vision

Although you cannot improve how your eyes actually perform, there are steps you can take to alleviate the vision impairment caused by cataracts. If glare is an issue, shield your eyes during the day with sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat, and avoid driving at night. You can use magnifying aids for household tasks and/or alternative media for reading, and also adjust your home lighting scheme for better visibility. And even if you already have cataracts, maintaining regular eye appointments and keeping your prescription accurate can help your eyes function as best they can.

There are currently no drugs that prevent, slow down, or reverse the development of cataracts. The only effective treatment option is surgery, which some patients choose to undergo when cataracts have progressed enough to negatively affect quality of life. This generally safe procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis, and complete healing can take up to eight weeks.

If you are living with cataracts, low vision, or other vision challenges that make it difficult to perform everyday tasks, you might benefit from the expert assessment and assistance of a Residential Home Health in-home occupational therapist, who can give personalized recommendations for improving home lighting and safety. No matter what your health challenge may be, Residential offers a range of services to help you work toward your health goals safely at home. Call (888)930-WELL (9355) to discuss your specific situation with a Home Care Specialist today, or click the image below to take our 60-second, 15-question Home Care Assessment.

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Topics: Aging In Place, Home Improvements, Visual Impairment