Everyone has heard of them, but how much do you know about the eye condition that affects 24 million of us? There are a lot of frequent misconceptions floating around on the internet, which can frighten people away from professional medical help, in turn allowing the problem to get worse. Below is some basic information, and common myths and truths about cataracts, to get you clued in on your eye health.
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What are they?
A cataract is a cloudy film over the eye, which prevents light from reaching the retina. This results in obstructed, misty vision that impacts everyday tasks such as reading and driving. Other symptoms can include headaches, eye pain and light sensitivity.
What causes them?
The lens of the eye is made up of mostly water and proteins. When a cataract forms, this cloudy layer is made up of the proteins clumping together on the lens, making the eye appear misted over and discolored. Cataracts can be caused by a huge range of biological and environmental factors, including family history, alcohol overconsumption, sunlight, injury and diabetes.
Myth: Cataracts only affect the elderly
Truth: Age-related cataracts are by far the most common, with 50% of over-80s in the US experiencing them. However, no upper or lower age limit defines when a person may develop them. Some babies can be born with them (congenital cataracts), whilst young children may develop them due to factors such as genetic conditions or faults, or even injury.
Myth: Cataracts are incurable
Truth: Depending on the severity, cataracts can be treated with glasses or removed through surgery. During the surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one, such as Panoptix, and is one of the most frequently performed procedures.
Myth: You can only get cataracts in one eye
Truth: Cataracts usually form in both eyes. They do not always appear at the same time, and they are not always of the same severity. If both require surgical removal, the surgeries are done with several months in between, for the first eye to recover properly.
Myth: Cataracts will make you blind
Truth: If left untreated, cataracts will cause blindness. However, the presence of one does not immediately mean the eventual loss of vision. Once identified, the cataract can be managed and even removed, easily and quickly. Post-surgery, glasses may be required for certain tasks such as reading.
Myth: Cataract surgery is dangerous
Truth: It is more than understandable to be squeamish about eye surgery, but cataract surgery is one of the more frequent procedures in the US, and in most cases, you can leave the hospital on the same day. There is always rigorous follow up appointments and testing beforehand to make sure that surgery is the right option for you.
Eye health is often overlooked, and we can easily take our eyes for granted. Small changes every day, such as reducing screen time, using blue light filters and taking vitamins can help improve and maintain your eyesight.