It is Cataract Awareness Month, so we want to share essential information that will benefit you and your loved ones. Understanding what a cataract is and how to detect them or treat them is essential for your eye health since it can be a life-changing ailment.
And, if you are already suffering from cataracts, you’re not alone. The CDC estimates that around 20.5 million Americans (Aged 40 or older) have cataracts in one or both eyes. Of that number, only 6.1 million have had their lenses replaced via cataract surgery.
But how do you keep your eyes healthy? And is there anything you can do if you’ve already been diagnosed with cataracts?
Keep reading to learn more about cataracts, how they affect your vision, and some vision tips to keep your eyes healthy.
How Do the Eyes Work?
The eye is a complex infrastructure with many parts coming together to help you see. To understand why cataracts affect our vision, it is essential to know how our eyes translate light into information. We can see what we do because light refracts through our eyes, and our brains translate this into physical shapes, forms, and colors.
First, light will pass through the cornea, which is the clear layer at the front of the eye. This is a dome-shaped film that bends light to help our eyes focus.
Some of this light moves through the pupil, and the iris controls how much light the pupil lets in. This is why our pupils contract or dilate in different light settings. The light then passes through the lens, which is the clear inner part of the eye. The lens works with the cornea to focus light on the retina.
When light passes through the retina, cells called photoreceptors turn the information into electrical signals, which pass through optic nerves to the brain.
Many do not understand that cataracts are one of the most common causes of blindness, preventing light from passing into your eye and through to the retina. A cataract is when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque, stopping light from passing through the lens.
As a result, your vision can become blurry, and you will start to see fewer sharp images. While they mainly occur via the natural aging process, there are some other risk factors. These are:
- Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun
- Family history, hereditary influences
- Medical diseases
- Eye injuries
- Inflammation in the eye
Cataracts form when proteins or pigments leave deposits in the lens. This, combined with the disturbance of the normal structure of the lens fibers, can cause diminished light transmission, causing vision impairment. The disorder affects color vision, driving, reading, and facial recognition.
Cataracts also do not develop overnight. The process can be slow, making it challenging to pick up on your own. Although cataracts are not painful, the following symptoms may suggest the onset of cataracts:
- Blurry or distorted vision
- The sensation of a film over the eyes
- Colors may appear dull
- Halos around lights
- Poor night vision
- Light sensitivity
- Driving glare may be worse
- Vision that does not improve with new glasses
Risk Factors for Cataract Development
Research has shown that some people are at more risk for developing cataracts than others. The following factors may increase your risk of developing cataracts:
- Heavy drinking
- Prolonged exposure to sunlight
- Family history
- High blood pressure
- Advanced age
- Previous eye injuries
- Previous eye surgeries
While the only way to remove cataracts is through surgery, there are some things you can do to mitigate the risk factors. A time may come when you can’t see or do the things you usually would. Here, your doctor will recommend cataract removal.
The cloudy lens will be removed during the surgery, and your doctor will replace it with a clear, artificial lens. At Newsom Eye, we offer a variety of cataract solutions to best suit your individual needs and lifestyle.
Tips for Good Eye Care
While it may seem unavoidable, as we can’t stop the aging process, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your eye health in excellent working. Most revolve around a healthy lifestyle, which can have many benefits outside of your vision.
Great eye health starts on the plate. You want to ensure you are getting plenty of nutrients like zinc, vitamin C and E, lutein, and, most importantly, omega-3 fatty acids. These may help ward off any age-related vision problems. Some foods you can get these from include:
- Leafy greens
- Tuna, salmon, and other oily fish types
- Eggs, beans, nuts, and other non-meat proteins
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Oysters and pork
Remember, a well-balanced diet goes further than the eyes. It also helps lower your chances of weight-related diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity, which can be a massive contributor to blindness in adults.
Exercise may help prevent obesity and diabetes, which, as we know, can lead to eye and vision problems. It can also help prevent elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, so make sure you are getting enough good exercise to stay healthy. There is also evidence proving that cardiovascular exercises lower intraocular pressure and increase blood flow to the optic nerve and retina.
Protect Your Eyes
Eye protection extends beyond just sunglasses, though these are important too. You want to make sure you’re using safety eyewear when working with hazardous or airborne materials. Any sports like lacrosse, racquetball, and ice hockey can lead to eye injuries, so wearing eye protection is invaluable. Helmets with protective face shields or sports goggles with strong polycarbonate lenses are a must.
And, with sunglasses, choose lenses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses are the best since they help protect your eyes on the side. Polarized lenses are fine if you want to reduce glare, but they don’t necessarily add any extra protection.
If you wear contact lenses, you can invest in some that still offer UV protection. However, it’s still best to wear sunglasses for an additional layer of security.
Rest Your Eyes
This can be challenging due to busy lifestyles but resting your eyes and taking screen time breaks is important. Staring at a phone, tablet or computer screen for too long can cause:
- Blurry vision
- Difficulties focusing on long distances
- Dry eyes
- Neck and shoulder pain
Fortunately, you can do plenty to protect your eyes, even if you’re working from home. First, make sure that your glasses or lenses are up to date and suitable for looking at computer screens. This means you want to consider adding blue light and anti-glare filters to your glasses.
You can also move the screen so that your eyes are level with the top edge of the monitor. This helps your neck more than your eyes, but a more relaxed posture will mean you blink more, as you are not staring and on edge. If your eyes feel dry (you’re probably not blinking enough), then try using artificial tears or high-quality eye drops.
Finally, make sure you’re resting your eyes every 20-30 minutes. You don’t want just to glance away from the screen, either. Look at least 20 feet away from you for around 20 seconds. On top of that, get up at least every two hours and take a consistent, 15-minute break. Avoid looking at your phone at this time.
Regular Eye Testing
Going for a routine eye exam is important in protecting your vision and may help catch and prevent the early onset of cataracts and other eye diseases like glaucoma. Finding things like these early on can make it easier to treat.
Depending on your needs, you may need to see one of two types of doctors. Ophthalmologists specialize in eye care, provide general care, treat diseases, and perform surgery on the eyes. Optometrists have at least four years of specialized training, but do not perform surgeries. They will provide general eye care. When going for a complete eye exam, you can expect:
- A conversation about family history
- Vision tests
- Eye pressure and optic nerve tests
- External and microscopic eye exams (before and after dilation)
Work With a Professional for Expert Eye Care
We understand it can be nerve-wracking to have vision issues, and cataracts can be disheartening. Newsom Eye understands this and wants to help you solve your troubles and get you seeing with crystal clear clarity again.
If you are worried about your eyes and especially have cataract concerns, schedule an appointment today for a consultation. We are experts in our field and offer a full array of eye care services so we can help you live life with NEWSOM EYES!