What Are Cataracts?
Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40, affecting more than 22 million Americans over 40. By 65, you have a 50% chance of developing a cataract. Furthermore, your chance jumps to 70% by age 75. It is more common than glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration all combined. Cataracts start out small and progressively worsen your eyesight over time. They can eventually lead to vision loss. In the early stages of a cataract, you will start to notice slightly blurred or cloudy vision. Eventually, you may experience sensitivity to light or notice colors appear duller.
3 Types of Cataracts
- Nuclear Cataract: The most common, this cataract resides in the center nucleus of the lens and makes it harder to see objects from a distance. Doctors associate these with aging. A symptom of nuclear cataracts is developing “second sight”. This is when your eye’s ability to focus changes and temporarily makes your close-up sight appear clearer.
- Subcapsular Cataract: This cataract occurs at the very back of the lens. The lens lies behind the iris and the pupil. This cataract progresses the quickest and causes blurriness and glares.
- Cortical Cataract: Formed in the cortex of the lens (the shell layer) and works its spokes from the outside to the center gradually.
How Do Cataracts Form?
The lens is made up of proteins, which are arranged in a way to allow light pass through and let your eyes see clearly. Light needs to be focused onto the retina for clear vision. When the proteins start to group together and cloud the lens, this is the beginning of a cataract. Chances of proteins clumping increases with age, and the cataract grows bigger as more and more protein groups. As the cataract grows bigger, eyesight gets more and more cloudy. Some risk factors other than aging include diabetes, use of steroids, ultraviolet radiation, eye injury, hypertension, and family history.
During the early stages, using glasses, stronger bifocals, and eye drops will help manage the weaker vision that a cataract causes. However, over time the cataract will worsen and your doctor might recommend cataract-removal surgery. This is one of the most frequent procedures performed in the United States. Also, cataract removal surgery has an extremely high success rate. 9 out of 10 people have restored vision from 20/20 to 20/40. During the surgery, the clouded lens is replaced with a clear plastic intraocular lens, also known as an IOL. Scientists are developing new IOLs all the time to simplify the surgical process and make it more beneficial to patients.
Medicare covers many medically necessary surgical procedures, like cataract surgery. You may pay less if you have a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement.
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