Cataracts develop gradually, and it can be difficult to know when cataract surgery is needed. Our eye doctors in Hamilton, Princeton, and other central New Jersey communities see men and women daily who wonder if it’s time to undergo surgery to improve their blurred vision.
Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40, and the condition currently affects more than 22 million Americans. And as our population grows older, more than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts by the year 2020. So, how do you know if you’re at risk? What are cataracts actually like? And how do you decide that it’s time for surgery?
Anyone can develop cataracts, but there are certain risk factors that make it more likely for someone to develop a cataract:
- Family history of cataracts
- Extensive exposure to sunlight
- Suffering a serious eye injury
- Prolonged use of steroids, especially combined use of oral and inhaled steroids
Wearing sunglasses that block the sun’s UVA and UVB rays can reduce your risk of developing cataracts, as can avoiding smoking (or quitting if you are a smoker). In an earlier blog post, we wrote about recent studies showing that women who undergo hormone replacement therapy have increased chances of needing cataract surgery in the future, as well. As we noted, the research suggests a cautious approach to hormone replacement therapy.
In its initial stages, a cataract is very small, and you may not even notice any change to your vision. As it develops over time, though, vision begins to blur. As the cataract grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to see. Someone with a cataract may notice light from a lamp or the sun seems glaring, or that oncoming headlights at night cause more glare than before the cataract developed. Different types of cataracts also have slightly different symptoms that may become noticeable at different times.
Timing of Cataract Surgery
Deciding whether to get cataract surgery is a conversation you’ll need to have while consulting with an ophthalmologist. It often depends on your lifestyle and daily activities. Getting annual vision tests after age 65 will help ensure the surgery is performed at the appropriate time, as well, because regular check-ups will tell you if cataracts are developing. The American Academy of Ophthalmology™ has an online consumer guide to cataract surgery with helpful information for men and women considering the procedure.
At Outlook Eyecare, we recommend a baseline eye exam for anyone older than 40, even people who aren’t considered at risk for developing cataracts. You can [cert] request a consultation [/cert] to meet with one of our eye doctors or call us at (609) 409-2777 in Monroe Township, (609) 419-1920 in Princeton, or (609) 587-4700 in Mercerville.