Health Topic Categories

- Eyes -

February 8th, 2012


Cataract Precautions

Although the cause of cataracts is not completely clear, it seems there may be measures you can take to at least postpone the occurrence of so-called senile cataracts. Don’t be discouraged if you do develop a cataract because it is an inevitable part of life if you live long enough.

 

Eye Exams. As a general principle, eye exams are recommended for all persons over 65 years old at least every two years, and more often for some patients. Ask your physician how often you should have an eye exam.

 

Sun Protection. Ultraviolet light may contribute to cataract formation. You can reduce this exposure by wearing broad-brimmed hats outdoors and by wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

 

Be Smoke-Free. Some studies relate smoking to earlier cataract formation. This is yet another reason not to start smoking or to see your doctor about a program for quitting.

 

Control Other Health Problems. Health problems such as diabetes and collagen vascular diseases can accelerate the development of cataracts. You can reduce this risk by partnering closely with your doctor in controlling these related health problems.

 

Medications. There are a number of medications known to induce cataracts. The primary culprits are the steroids. Certainly the anabolic steroids illegally uses by some athletes are linked to cataracts. But all steroids from oral prednisone to some asthma inhalers can induce cataract formation. Even patients under the age of 40 have developed cataracts from some of the drug companies’ most heavily advertised asthma inhalers. Nevertheless, if you have been prescribed these medications, do not discontinue them without your doctor’s knowledge.

 

Eat Healthily. Fruits and vegetables are a pleasant and convenient path to good health. Additionally, there is even some weak evidence that the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables retard the development of cataracts.

 

Cataract Related Diseases. In addition to impairing vision, cataracts have many insidious effects. Cataracts can effect a change in eyeglass prescription. Usually cataracts necessitate a stronger prescription; but, surprisingly, they sometimes necessitate a weaker one. Finally, cataracts can cause certain types of glaucoma which may produce permanent blindness.

 

Cataracts Obstruct Detection of Other Eye Diseases. Just as a cataract may impair your vision out of the eye, it impairs the doctor’s view into the eye to examine structures behind the cataract. Thus, diseases of the retina and optic nerve such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, retinal detachments, glaucoma, and papilledema can avoid detection because of cataracts. Cataracts may also deprive you of the benefits of high-tech diagnostics by interfering with your doctor’s use of such techniques as fluorescein angiogram and optical coherence tomography (OCT).

 

If You Do Develop a Cataract. Many cataracts are mild and do not require surgery initially, but there is no medication to eliminate the cataract. Surgery is the only option when the cataract blurs your vision or prevents the detection of other serious eye diseases. How[ever, recent years have seen great advances in cataract surgery. Although there are risks with any surgery, cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective of all surgeries performed.

 

Cataract Surgery Is Now Refractive Surgery (LASIK and PRK). A huge advancement in cataract surgery has been the development of intraocular lens implants that can now correct near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and astigmatism. After cataract surgery, many patients do not need glasses for distance vision and some do not need them for distance or near vision because the lenses are accommodative or multifocal. In some patients cataract surgery can be combined with laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) for better vision. Nevertheless, vision correcting lenses and LASIK are not covered by health insurance or Medicare so the patient should expect an additional cost.

 

Summary. You can take precautions to help reduce some of the risks of cataracts, but if vision-impairing cataracts do occur, surgery achieves excellent results in restoring vision.

 

Robert Haverly, MD

Thomas Falasca, DO

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