As you may or may not know, September is Healthy Aging Month. When you’re looking at your own personal health, it’s important and pretty easy to look at your skin condition, blood pressure, heart rate, eating habits, etc. But don’t forget your eyesight.
Especially as you age past 55, you’ll need to start checking for the most common eye ailment: cataracts. Cataracts are cloudy or opaque areas in the normally clear lens of your eye. It occurs when proteins slowly build up directly behind the lens of the eye and can lead to impaired vision and even blindness.
So how do you check for cataracts?
The first thing you need to know are that cataracts generally form very slowly. So slowly, you may not notice you have them until they’ve progressed significantly. However, there are early signs you can watch for. If you notice any of the following it may be time to visit your ophthalmologist:
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Reduced intensity of colors
- Increased sensitivity to glare from lights, particularly when driving at night
- Increased difficulty seeing at night
- Change in the eye’s refractive error
So how do you prevent cataracts?
The cause of cataracts, other than aging, is still not entirely clear. There is no proven way to fully prevent cataracts. Researchers have linked eye-friendly nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc with reducing the risk of certain eye diseases, including cataracts, however there are several practices you can acquire that will reduce your risk of developing cataracts.
- Have regular eye examinations
- Quit smoking
- Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays when your outdoors
- Choose a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Avoid sunlamps or tanning booths
So what happens if you get cataracts?
When you first discover or suspect you have cataracts, it is important to schedule an appointment with your eye physician. Your physician should be able to diagnose your eye problem and tell you the proper forms of treatment. Typically, not everyone needs surgery; however surgically removing the cataracts is an option you should consider (if your physician recommends it), because cataracts worsen with time. Your physician may not recommend surgery for several years, but might recommend purchasing new glasses, strong bifocals, anti-glare sunglasses or other appropriate visual aids to slow the cataract’s growth.
Surgery becomes necessary when the cataract is interfering with your vision, especially if it’s impairing your ability to drive. If you need eye surgery for another reason, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, the cataract may impede the surgery and the cataract will need to be removed. If cataracts are found in both eyes, two separate surgeries are needed to remove them. There is low-risk in cataract surgery and are often successful, greatly improving your site.
Since September is Healthy Aging Month, it is important to check up on all the little things so that you can always be at your best. Eye site is a crucial element in our daily functioning and one that we so often take for granted. Remember, if you’re age 55 or older, you may be at risk for developing cataracts. Cataracts are the most common ailment of this age group; so this month when you take a look for all of those yearly check up’s, don’t forget your eyes too.