Cataracts can be dangerous development in senior health and wellness. Cataracts are not a disease or illness, but they do naturally occur in individuals over a certain age. In fact, by the age of 80, more than half of all Americans have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. For seniors, cataracts can cause serious problems because they make simple navigation and household activities more difficult and even dangerous. Cataracts can occur in either or both eyes.
How do Cataracts Affect Elderly Vision?
Cataracts can significantly impact a senior’s vision in two primary ways. Clumps of protein may build up and start to reduce a person’s sharpness of image. When the protein reaches a certain point, it clouds the lens and reduces the amount of light that gets through. Individuals may experience a big enough clouding up that they develop blurred vision. In seniors, cataracts start as minor blurs and over time grow to envelope a large portion of the lens. Your senior’s lens will gradually color with age, turning a browner shade and becoming more difficult to see through. It starts with a small amount of tinting, then gradually decreases the sharpness of the image until your senior can no longer see with clarity or to distinguish similar color shades. For example, your senior could be trying to put on a pair of black socks only to be told later that they are purple.
Risk Factors for Cataracts
The risk of contracting cataracts increases with age, but there are also risk factors that can increase your likelihood. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet and weight is one way to reduce your risk for developing cataracts. Several risk factors include:
- Long term alcohol use
- Prolonged sunlight exposure
For seniors, it is important to protect from harmful UV rays to help delay the onset of cataracts and several forms of cancer. Seniors should also stop smoking and eat many leafy, green vegetables, along with fruits, whole grains, and antioxidants.
Symptoms of Cataracts
If you are worried that your senior loved one could be developing cataracts, there are several warnings signs to look out for. If your senior has more than two of the following symptoms it may be time to consult with an eye doctor or general practitioner.
- Cloudy vision
- Colors seem faded
- Brownish tinting on eyes
- Minor blurs in peripheral vision
- Glare on lamps and headlights appears too bright
- Poor night vision
- Double vision
Seniors who are aged 60 and older should have eye exams completed once every two years. Your senior’s designated eye care professional should check for age-related degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders in order to make sure cataracts are caught swiftly and properly treated before they cause harm. Cataracts are typically diagnosed by having the patient undergo a visual acuity test, a dilated eye exam, or using tonometry. These eye care evaluations will help specialists to accurately diagnose cataracts.
Cataracts in seniors can be improved upon by new eyeglass prescriptions, increasing the brightness of lights, sunglasses with anti-glare tints, and surgery. Surgery should be considered when cataracts have gotten to the point where they interfere with a senior’s ability to drive or function in general. Surgery consists of removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial one. You should weigh benefits and risks associated with surgery before making a decision on whether or not it’s right for you.
Are Cataracts Reversible?
In the early stages, senior cataracts cannot be reversed, but they can be treated with eyeglasses and enhancing the brightness.
What is Cataract Surgery Like?
If you are worried that cataract surgery could be dangerous for your senior, here are the basics. While it is a delicate operation, there is a very high success rate and in cases of complications, zero reported fatalities. In fact, 95% of cataract surgeries are performed without complications. Fewer than 5% of cases involve complications such as bleeding, infection, or inflammation. Initially, the doctor makes an incision in the eye. From there, a laser removes the natural eye lens and the doctor carefully places a new, artificial lens in its place. Patients can usually go home within the same day and should have restored vision within a few days of leaving surgery.
Thank you for reading this informational resource on senior cataracts. For best results, talk to your clinical care provider and see if they recommend utilizing any or all of the aforementioned screening tests for cataracts. At Landmark Senior Living, we believe in building strong senior housing communities full of happy, healthy residents.