WILL I HAVE CATARACTS SOME DAY?
One of the somewhat humorous but truthful answers to this question is, “If you’re lucky you will, because that means you lived long enough to get them”. The problem with that answer is that there is a relatively wide span from one individual to the next as to what age cataracts may occur. You might have a patient in their late 60’s with advanced cataracts who needs surgery, and the next patient in the door might be 80 and only have early cataracts.
A cataract is the clouding of the lens inside the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are simply related to aging. By age 80, more than half the population of all Americans have cataracts or have already had cataract surgery. The lens is made up of mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise pattern that allows the lens to be clear and let light pass through. As we age that pattern is disrupted and the lens goes from being clear to becoming cloudy. Over time, the cataract will advance, become more dense and have an increasingly adverse effect on vision, making it harder to see clearly.
There are other types of cataracts besides age related cataracts. To name a few, there are secondary cataracts, traumatic cataracts and congenital cataracts. These other types of cataracts are much less common.
The term “age-related cataract can be a little misleading, since they can occur in the 40’s and 50’s, but it is after age 60 that most cataracts begin to affect vision. Age is the number one risk factor for cataract development, but there are others. Certain diseases, such as diabetes can lead to earlier cataract development. Smoking is a known contributor to cataract development as well. Even the environment can play a role. The more exposure to sunlight (UV radiation), the more likely you will develop cataracts as well.
Wearing sunglasses with 100% UV (ultraviolet) blocking and a hat with a brim to block the stray UV may help delay cataract development. Some researchers also believe that good nutrition can play a role in reducing the likelihood of age related cataracts. They recommend eating green leafy vegetables, fruit and other foods rich in antioxidants.
Everyone 60 years of age or older should have a yearly comprehensive eye health evaluation. If cataracts are an issue they will be detected. Your eye care professional will determine whether to simply follow the cataracts over time or whether you are ready for cataract surgery. More on cataract surgery and options at a later