Don’t Let Cataracts Slow Down Your Active Senior Lifestyle!


August is Cataract Awareness Month. Cataractseye images are a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision and are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. Cataracts are common in the elderly but can occur at any age. Sometimes they are present at birth and often due to surgery, disease, and injury. People can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s but would never know it because the cataracts are still small and do not yet affect their vision!  Around age 60 most cataracts start to steal vision, and by age 80, more than half of all Americans will either have had a cataract or had cataract surgery.  Although treatment for the removal of a cataract is widely available, often lack of insurance coverage, treatment costs, even lack of awareness prevent many from getting treatment.

A cataract can occur in one or both eyes, but does not spread from one eye to the other. A cataract begins to form in the lens of the eye when the protein starts to “clump” and then to “cloud” a small spot on the lens. The lens of the eye acts just as a camera lens does so over time as the spot grows larger it reduces the light that reaches the retina, making your vision blurry. Eventually your vision acquires a brownish tint. If you ignore these warning signs and other red flags like seeing double, sensitivity to glare, and poor night vision, then as the condition worsens it will become difficult for you to read, identify colors, and even perform routine daily activities!

The total number of people who have cataracts is estimated to increase to 30 million by 2020. Research has shown a connection between cataracts and smoking, alcohol use, prolonged exposure to sunlight and also to certain diseases such as diabetes and glaucoma. Most cataracts grow slowly, and vision changes are gradual, which makes it more important than ever to get screened and to protect your vision by:

     ~   Using sunglasses when you are outdoors and/or driving;

     ~   Wearing a hat with a brim;

     ~   Consume foods with antioxidants like green leafy veggies and fruits;

     ~   Stop smoking, or leave the room when someone else is smoking;

     ~   Cut down on alcohol consumption;

     ~   Have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years starting at age 60.

In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) now recommends that even adults with no signs or risk factors get a baseline screening for cataracts at 40 years of age. Forty is when early signs of eye disease and changes in vision start to occur. You may want to read our earlier article on glaucoma, click HERE.

Early stage cataracts may be improved with new eyeglasses, better lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is usually the only effective treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens (intraocular lens). There are two popular procedures, both involve an incision and removal of the damaged lens with suction.  Once the new artificial lens is inserted, your vision should improve in a few days, but total healing may take about 8 weeks. The operation lasts for about an hour and is almost painless, after which you will be given drops to help with healing and fight infection and probably sent home with an eye patch. You will be instructed not to drive, take plenty of rest and refrain from bending or lifting for a few days.

With an aging population here in South Florida, we all need to raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to prevent vision loss. Additional information and resources can be found here: http://www.preventblindness.org.

Contact Us: Should you require surgery for cataracts, Regal has a program called “Quick-Start” Your Recovery® that might be of interest. Problems after cataract surgery are rare, but sometimes infection, bleeding, inflammation, loss of vision, double vision, and high or low eye pressure can occur. Let one of our skilled nurses or professional caregivers bring you back home and get you settled in after the surgical procedure. Our clinician or professional will review the post-discharge protocols, explain the doctor’s orders, arrange for any drops or pain medications you need, be sure you have food in the fridge and prepare you a meal to eat, then assist you in bathing before settling you in for the rest of the day or night. Generally we provide a 4 hour minimum visit for $250, but the price varies depending on the level of professional care you need: RN, LPN, CNA, HHA or Caregiver. Additional services are available at an hourly fee of course in case you also require light housekeeping and some laundry tended to upon arriving home. Overnight requests can be accommodated. For more information, please contact Ferial Andre, RN, CCM, CDP, at 561-499-8382 or ferialandre@regalcares.com.

This article is not intended as medical advice.