The eye is made up of a number of parts that work together to allow people to see and send that information to the brain where the images are processed. If any of the parts of the eye are not working, if the eye gets an infection, or if the eye suffers an injury, vision can become impaired. In the event of a cataract, which affects over 20 million Americans over 40, this vision loss can require surgery to avoid blindness.
How Cataracts Form
The lens of the eye is clear in healthy people. It is oval in shape, convex and is located behind the iris (the colored part of the eye that controls the amount of light entering the eye through the pupil). It focuses and refracts the light that comes into the eye through the cornea onto the retina. The retina helps to form the shape, depth, and clarity of images. (Source). The lens is controlled by small muscles that allow it to change shape and focus images of objects that are at different distances from the eye.
A cataract occurs due to protein build up in the lens of the eye, making it lose its transparency and become cloudy, interfering with light transmission to the retina. The result is often blurry or cloudy vision but may have additional effects. Sometimes affected vision is described as dull, yellow or seeing double. It may also produce sensitivity to light or reduced night or low-light vision. (Source).
Who Gets Cataracts?
Cataracts are extremely common as people age. Age-related cataracts typically begin and progress slowly enough that you might not notice until detected through an eye exam. This will typically involve a visual acuity test, in which your vision is tested at different distances, as well as a dilated eye exam and tonometry to see and test the actual lens. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institute of Health, (NIH), in addition to cataracts that occur in the aging population (which impacts up to 90% of people over 65), there are several other distinct types of cataract:
- Secondary, which can form after eye surgeries or develop with other health problems like diabetes. Occasionally they show up with steroid use as well.
- Traumatic, which can occur after an eye injury, even years later.
- Congenital, which some babies are born with or which children develop, usually in both eyes. These are not always impactful on vision, but occasionally require that the lens to be replaced.
- Radiation, which develops after someone is exposed to certain types of radiation.
People who have a family history of eye issues should have their eyes checked for cataracts. Additionally, those with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol use, frequent direct UV exposure to the eyes, eye surgery, eye injuries, steroid or statin medication use, and hormone replacement therapy are all at a higher risk for cataracts. (Source).
Can Cataracts Be Prevented?
The jury is out on whether or not there is any way to prevent cataracts. VSP, a company that provides vision insurance plans, suggests that avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, but increasing the consumption of foods that have significant antioxidant properties and consuming multivitamins, may be very beneficial. They also suggest avoiding direct sunlight and frequently having professional eye exams. WebMD agrees with the wisdom of maintaining regular eye exams and avoiding things that might harm your eyes but indicates that since we don’t know exactly what causes cataracts, it is impossible to know exactly how to prevent them – focusing instead on early intervention. The NEI agrees that there may be many causes of cataracts, indicating that they are likely due to clumping of lens proteins over time. And still other sources of information point to studies that show a significant decrease in cataract risk with diets high in vitamin E, vitamin C, or omega-fatty acids.
Cataracts are treated in one of several ways. Sometimes corrective lenses are enough to help, at least in the short run. If contacts or glasses are not enough, or when cataracts get in the way of daily life, surgery is the only thing that can be done. Cataract surgery is very common and usually occurs without significant complications. It is an outpatient procedure with a very high rate of success in helping people recover much of their vision. (Source).
As successful as cataract surgery usually is, like every ,surgery there are potential complications. In the event that a person has other ocular issues or infection, the surgery becomes much more dangerous without correction. In the event of blepharitis caused by demodex mites, which is very common in older people, eliminating the mite population prior to surgery will allow a much greater chance of post-surgical healing.
The main benefit of cleaning up mites prior to cataracts is the potential effect that blepharitis may have on the ocular surface. Severe blepharitis may lead to a tear film breakup and damage to the ocular surface. When deciding how to fit the lens for the patient, it is critical for the doctor to get the right measurements of the eye. If the ocular surface is damaged, the doctor could be taking the wrong measurements and the resulting vision correction via cataract surgery may not be what the patient is looking for.
Those same mites are implicated in one of the most common post-surgical complications, endophthalmitis. (Source) If you find yourself facing cataract surgery, talk to your doctor about the use of Cliradex to keep your eyelids and eyelashes clean, and as part of the prevention of further eye issues moving forward. Cliradex is a natural eyelid cleanser that is 100% vegan and gluten-free for safe and soothing results.