Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help
One of the best parts of the holidays is spending time with family members you don’t get to see regularly. This is also the perfect time to check on your parents’ health. Sometimes, changes that come on gradually will appear more pronounced if you haven’t been around each other recently. Older family members are especially likely to show health changes as they advance in age. All the more reason that you should take the time to observe whether these changes are affecting their quality of life.
Cataracts are a common side effect of aging. “By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Different from myopia or nearsightedness, cataracts have a particular set of symptoms which affect a person’s sight and, over time, they can have a severe negative impact on your parents’ quality of life. Here are some of the early signs to look out for.
Cataracts are characterized by a buildup of protein on the eye’s lens, the portion of the eye that lies directly behind the iris. The function of the lens is to focus light and project it onto the retina, which then creates an image that is then sent via the optic nerve to the brain as visual information.
Protein buildup happens gradually and may be subtle at first. Over time, more and more of the lens will be obscured by the cataract, making your loved one’s vision blurry. Sometimes, cataracts can also cause a phenomenon called “second sight” which Southwestern Eye Center explains happens when a cataract improves a person’s nearsighted vision while worsening farsighted vision.
“The effect can be so staggering that reading glasses may not even be needed anymore,” Southwestern Eye Center goes on to explain. As the cataract continues to spread, however, the effect will be reversed.
Sensitivity to light
Similar to the way sunlight reflects from a dirty reflective surface, cataracts can cause glare, which creates a sensitivity to light. Watch for signs that your parents struggle to see in bright sunlight or if they complain of the glare from street lights or oncoming headlights when driving at night. They might also describe a “halo” of light surrounding light sources.
Difficulty identifying blue or purple
Cataracts don’t just blur vision; they affect color perception as well. Does your dad mismatch black and blue socks? Does your mother struggle to find her purple sweater? It could be that cataracts have affected their color vision with a yellowish or brownish tinge.
For mild cases of cataracts, stronger glasses or a new contact prescription could help your loved one correct his or her vision. As time goes on, however, he or she may need to consider other options, including surgery.
Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed today. With today’s technology, it is a quick operation which requires only local anesthesia and a 1/8 inch incision by your ophthalmologist. Next, an instrument is inserted which breaks up and removes the cataract. The surgeon then places an artificial lens which unrolls into place. Following the surgery, many people report not only clearer vision but improved vision as well. The lens can be customized to fit your loved one’s vision needs, much like a built-in contact lens.
Call or visit Southwestern Eye Center today to schedule an appointment to have your sight or the sight of a family member checked for cataracts. Or, take a free online self-evaluation to see if you may have cataracts.