Vital information on cataracts
The only cure is surgical removal of the lens, replacing it with a clear implant . . .
More than 20 million Americans suffer from cataracts, a clouding of the lens in the eye. Common symptoms include blurred vision, faded colors, poor night vision and problems with bright lights and sunshine. You may experience eyestrain or find yourself blinking more often to clear your vision.
In an effort to safeguard your vision, I spoke to Healthnetwork’s 2008 Service Excellence Award recipient, Walter Stark, MD, distinguished professor of ophthalmology and director of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
We discussed cataract risk factors, prevention tips and treatment options. More than 50% of Americans will develop cataracts by age 75. Cataracts occur more frequently in African Americans, Hispanics and individuals with a family history of diabetes.
Environmental factors and personal behavior also increase an individual’s likelihood of developing cataracts. Significant exposure to UV rays from sunlight, glaucoma and some medications to treat glaucoma, and chronic use of oral corticosteroids (used to treat asthma and other medical conditions) are associated with an increased risk.
Although cataracts are not completely preventable, lifestyle changes may delay their occurrence. Quitting smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol and overexposure to UV light are important protective measures. Research connecting nutrition and cataract development is focusing on antioxidants and carotenoids.
The only cure for cataracts is surgical removal of the clouded lens, which usually includes replacing the lens with a clear lens implant. Sometimes cataracts are removed without reinserting implant lenses. In such cases, vision can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Cataract removal is one of the most common eye surgeries in the U.S. and is successful 95% of the time. Surgery is generally recommended when cataracts begin to affect your quality of life or interfere with your ability to perform normal daily activities.
Surgery is performed on one eye at a time. It is generally scheduled on an outpatient basis, usually with local anesthesia. Recovery is quick. You can often resume your normal daily activities beginning the night of your surgery. However, not all cataracts require surgery. Some cataracts develop only to a certain point and then stop. Often a cataract progresses slowly and may take years before it interferes with vision. Consultation with an ophthalmologist can help determine if surgery is needed.
Regular eye exams and an open dialogue with your personal physician or ophthalmologist is the best way to safeguard your vision. Legates are encouraged to contact Healthnetwork to schedule an appointment with a leading ophthalmologist at one of our medical centers of excellence.
Susan Locke, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.
Healthnetwork is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. To learn how this can work for you, call (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org