What Causes Cataracts and How Can You Treat Them?
At Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, we do everything that we can to help keep our patients’ eyes healthy. Sometimes this can be a tall order, particularly since there are so many different issues that can affect the eyesight. Although we routinely treat everything from the relatively minor, long-term refractive errors that can be corrected with glasses or contacts to acute, serious emergencies arising from injury or infection, we are perhaps best known for our treatment of cataracts, the single most common cause of blindness in adults over the age of 40. According to Prevent Blindness America (PBA), there are currently more cases of cataracts, worldwide, than there are cases of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined. Fortunately, Dr. William Segal has been successfully treating men and women for cataracts for nearly twenty years using the most advanced intraocular lens replacement techniques.
Simply put, a cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. In the early stages, its effect on your vision may hardly be noticeable; image may appear slightly cloudy or hazy and colors may no longer appear as bright as they once did. They occur when the complex protein molecules that make up the lens begin to break down, usually as a natural result of aging, although external environmental factors can contribute to the process. In their natural state, these protein molecules are configured in a precise way to keep them transparent, but when they break down they can start to clump together, forming cloudy spots on the lens. Over time, cataracts will continue to grow and darken, obscuring vision and eventually causing blindness. While it is still unclear why some develop cataracts and others do not, we do know that certain medical conditions, like diabetes or traumatic eye injury, can precipitate their development and that exposure to any form of radiation, even the ultraviolet radiation present in common sunlight, can increase their likelihood. Studies have also found that people who smoke have double the likelihood of developing cataracts compared to those who do not.
There is some controversy as to whether or not cataracts can be prevented. Not unlike retinopathy, the formation of cataracts has, in some cases, been linked to diabetes, and several large studies have found that patients with higher dietary intakes of vitamins E and C seem to have a reduced risk, so maintaining a healthy diet may provide some benefit. Protecting your eyes from dangerous environmental hazards, like ultraviolet light and cigarette smoke, is helpful as well. However, once symptoms begin to appear they will most likely continue to progress to the point that they affect the patient’s daily life. At that point, the clouding lenses need to be replaced through a procedure called intraocular lens replacement surgery.
Although it may sound scary, intraocular lens replacement surgery, commonly known simply as cataract surgery, is a simple and relatively painless procedure that is performed on more than three million Americans every year. Using the LenSx® laser system, one of the most advanced technologies available today, Dr. Segal makes a tiny incision in the lens capsule so that the damaged lens can be removed and the new intraocular lens inserted. The wound is then closed using a suture-less technique or with tiny sutures. The procedure generally takes less than an hour, and can be performed on one or both eyes as necessary. Cataract surgery has proven to be extremely safe, with an extremely small chance for complications, and most patients will be able to notice significant improvement in their vision as soon as the day after surgery, with optimal results achieved in about a month.
If you have any other questions about cataract surgery, or if you would like to schedule either a routine or comprehensive medical eye examination, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons today to make an appointment. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more to keep your vision healthy.