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New Ulm Medical Center

Cataracts common as people age, but easily corrected

Do you feel like you’re constantly looking through a cloud? Are your eyes sensitive to glare from lights, particularly when driving at night? Do colors appear less intense than they once did? If so, you could have cataracts.

“Cataracts are cloudy or opaque areas in the normally clear lens of your eye that can affect your vision,” said Natalia Kramarevsky, MD, an ophthalmologist at New Ulm Medical Center.

Cataracts can develop in one eye, but having them in both eyes is common. When cataracts appear in both eyes it is possible for one cataract to be worse than the other.

The most common type of cataract is a nuclear cataract, which is located in the center of your eye’s lens, Kramarevsky said.

Cataracts and aging

Most cataracts happen in older age or if one had an underlying ocular injury or surgery. In general, the American Academy of Ophthalmology advises having a baseline eye examination at the age of 40 to screen for some of the ocular conditions like glaucoma, early cataracts and others.

Risk factors

Some other factors also can also increase the likelihood of your developing cataracts. These include:

  • smoking
  • having diabetes
  • heavy drinking of alcohol
  • taking certain medicine, especially corticosteroids
  • not wearing sunglasses while exposed to ultraviolet radiation
  • not eating enough foods containing antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and carotenoids.

Foods high in carotenoids include cantaloupe, apricots, carrots, pumpkin, squash, broccoli, spinach and most dark, leafy vegetables.

Diagnosing cataracts

Your eye doctor can tell whether you have cataracts by examining your eyes. The doctor will also ask whether you are experiencing any vision difficulties that limit your daily activities.

The eye exam includes checking your vision, eye pressure and dilating your eyes to evaluate your retina and to see if your vision has changed.

Finding out you have cataracts doesn’t necessarily mean you need treatment right away. Cataracts progress slowly in most instances.

“I compare cataracts to wrinkles,” Kramarevsky said. “I ask patients if it is worse this year than last year.” It’s your vision that matters most, she added. “When we get older, we do get changes. If you can still function in life and there is no structural harm, we can monitor the cataracts.”

Treatments vary

Some people with cataracts find a change in prescription can help them to see clearer. Antiglare coatings on their glasses also can help.

When cataracts affect your daily living, you may need surgery, Kramarevsky said.

During surgery, the eye surgeon removes the lens of your eye and replaces it with an artificial lens. Most people find they see better after cataract surgery, and often will rely less on glasses.

Most insurance covers cataract surgery if it is necessary because your vision is impaired, she noted. However, insurance typically won’t pay for multifocal lenses, which can eliminate the need for reading glasses.

Cataract surgery is a same-day procedure. “Patients go home the same day and return for follow-up as an outpatient,” Kramarevsky said.

Once you’ve had cataract surgery, your cataracts are not likely to return. However, some people develop scar tissue behind the lens implant.

“If your vision clouds again,” Kramarevsky explained, “we use a laser to cut the scar tissue that sometimes develops.”

While all surgeries have risks, cataract surgery is considered one of the safest and most effective procedures. Most people can have cataract surgery with no problem, Kramarevsky said.

Talk with your doctor about whether cataract surgery is right for you.

Call for an appointment

Concerned about cataracts? To make an appointment with Kramarevsky, call 507-217-5011.