What You Need To Know About Cataracts

Vision issues and vision loss are major health concerns for people over the age of 65. According to recent reporting, it’s estimated that one in three people over the age of 65 suffer from some type of vision disease or disorder. Along with other vision related issues such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration, cataracts are one of the leading causes of partial or full vision loss. Left untreated, cataracts can contribute to an inability to perform the activities of daily living and this can lead to feelings of isolation and depression.

What are Cataracts?
The lens of the human eye is normally clear, but over time can become cloudy. This clouding of a naturally-clear optical lens is called a cataract. There are three kinds of cataracts: a subcapsular cataract, which occurs at the back of the eye lens; a nuclear cataract, which forms deep in the central zone of the lens; and a cortical cataract, which begins at the periphery of the lens and then spreads toward the center. It’s important to address all cataracts, regardless of type, as cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40.

What Causes Cataracts?
The lens of the human eye is mostly comprised of water and protein. During the natural aging process, it’s common for some of the protein from the lens to form clumps, causing clouding. These clumps of protein are cataracts, and they can expand with age, resulting in vision problems. No one really knows why the lens of the eye changes with age, but medical experts have identified some contributing factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes and the use of certain medications.

What are the Warning Signs?
The warning signs of cataracts can appear very gradually. Patients often report noticing a slight blurriness of vision - almost like looking out of a blurry window. Sometimes night glare while driving can become troublesome, or there may be a heightened sensitivity to sunlight. Another symptom is that colors may seem faded or muted. Over time, these symptoms will generally increase so it’s very important to get regular vision check-ups and to alert your eye care health professional of any changes in vision.

What is Cataract Surgery and Recovery Like?
Cataract surgery is a relatively simple outpatient procedure that does not typically require an overnight stay in a hospital. The surgeon will first use a device to break up and then remove the cloudy parts of the lens and replace it with a new, artificial lens. Many patients have cataracts in both eyes, but surgery is generally performed on just one eye at a time. A straightforward cataract surgery typically lasts about 15 minutes, but patients are usually at the surgical center for 2-3 hours, including preparation time and recovery. Patients will need someone to drive them to and from the surgery and will not be released to drive home on their own.

Following surgery, the patient is prescribed medicated eye drops and is asked to wear a protective eye patch in order to keep the eye clean and prevent infection. During recovery, patients are asked to avoid strenuous activities such as lifting and exercise. In most cases, patients will have a follow-up visit with their eye health care doctor within a few days of surgery in order to check their vision and hopefully be given permission to return to normal activities.

At The Maples of Towson, we believe that best senior care is customized for the individual. Through our Sage Advice Program, we oversee the coordination of all aspects of our residents’ care from the arranging of medical diagnostic visits and procedures to medication management. Contact us today to learn more about our supportive senior living community.