Do you feel like your eyes have aged faster than their years? You may have early cataracts (clouding of the clear lens in the eye) – and if that’s the case, you’re not alone.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in those over the age of 40. How common is this problem? To put it simply, more people suffer from cataracts than glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy combined.
There are many different reasons this can happen, and many different factors could influence how prone to cataracts someone is. Nobody really knows why our eyes tend to cloud and wear out as we get older, but there are numerous factors that have been linked to cataract development, including:
If you’ve experienced symptoms of early cataracts, then it is reasonable to be concerned. However, the good news is that you have plenty of options when it comes to taking care of your vision. Cataracts can be removed safely and efficiently, and you could be seeing beautifully in no time.
In fact, more people are getting cataract surgery earlier than ever before. But why? We asked Key-Whitman Eye Center’s President and Chief Surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Whitman to explain.
Ultimately, there’s no reason to wait until you’re significantly impaired to have cataract surgery, especially if vision problems are interfering with activities of daily living! Here are three reasons why an increasing number of younger people are getting cataract surgery.
While most people develop cataracts as they age, that isn’t the case for everybody. As Dr. Whitman explains, “Younger people can develop cataracts. In fact, some babies are born with cataracts that can be corrected with surgery. You can also get cataracts due to trauma to the eye or from taking certain medications like prednisone or steroids. We’re also seeing more cases of cataracts in people in their 40s and 50s due to environmental reasons, possibly too much exposure to UV light from the sun.”
Consider our patient, Leslie:
Until she entered her 40s, Leslie Lingle passed her vision tests with flying colors, seeing 20/20 for years. However, like most people in their 40s, Leslie found herself relying more and more on reading glasses to get by. Then something strange happened. She noticed her vision was getting progressively blurrier, and while watching T.V. or working at her computer, she found there were little chunks or pieces she couldn’t make out on the screen. After a thorough eye exam at Key-Whitman Eye Center, Leslie was shocked to learn she had cataracts.
“When my eye doctor first said ‘I see a cataract growing on your eye,’ I said no, that can’t be true, at the time I was only in my late 40s, and immediately all I could think of was my grandmother was 79 when she had cataract surgery. So, I said, this just can’t happen to me at this age,” explains Leslie.
After much trepidation and following insight from the team at Key-Whitman Eye Center, Leslie opted for traditional cataract surgery. Her only regret is she didn’t have cataract surgery sooner!
Leslie explains why she was pleased with her cataract surgery and why people shouldn’t put it off.
As mentioned in the above video, cataract surgery has never been easier or safer than it is today. Thanks to advanced technology we can say bye, bye scalpel. Hello, high-tech, computer-guided laser.
“In the past, cataract surgery was very basic. You had the eye surgeon, the scalpel and the eye. Since the surgery was all human-controlled, it took more time and effort to remove the old lens, which could be much more invasive. Now, with the advent of the femtosecond laser, cataract surgery has become safer and more efficient. Not only do we have the laser to help with the most delicate and microscopic parts of the surgery, but the computer control of that laser gives us the most accurate surgical results we’ve ever had,” says Dr. Whitman.
In the early days of cataract surgery, the surgeon removed the cloudy lens and implanted a replacement lens for distance vision. Today, you have high-technology lens implant options that can help with near, middle, and distance vision. In fact, many people end up with better vision than they’ve had in years.
According to Dr. Whitman, “As with any surgery, we can’t literally turn back time, but for those patients who have been very nearsighted, farsighted and dependent on glasses for most of their lives, cataract surgery can be a revelation. With the high-tech lens implants available today, we can give most patients very good quality distance, intermediate and close up vision and often get them out of glasses and contacts the majority of the time.
“Even patients with lousy vision who don’t have cataracts ask me, ‘Hey doc, I’m tired of my glasses. Can I have cataract surgery with those high-tech lens implants so I don’t have to wear my glasses 100 percent of the time?’ Depending on the patient, cataract surgery may help them get out of glasses for most of what they do.”
Leslie explains what she loves most about getting cataract surgery and how her astigmatism was also corrected during surgery.
Preventing cataracts doesn’t have to be as hard as it might seem. Many risk factors can be avoided by simply making healthy choices with your lifestyle, such as not smoking or only occasionally enjoying a small amount of alcohol.
Other things may not be avoidable, such as steroid usage for those who suffer from asthma. For those individuals, a higher diet of Vitamin E has been shown to significantly reduce the chance of developing cataracts over time.
Taking care of your eyes is another way to prevent this problem from emerging. Wear safety goggles whenever you’re working with something that might cause shrapnel to be released into the air, such as working with wood or metal. Likewise, wearing polarized and UV-filtering sunglasses can lower the strain you put on your eyes.
Need expert advice about cataracts or other vision problems? Our Key-Whitman Eye Center team of experienced eye doctors and cataract surgeons in Dallas, Arlington, Plano, and Mesquite is here to help. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please call (214) 220-3937 or feel free to set up an appointment online.