Cataracts are related to aging

March 24, 2015 By Ronald Bezahler, M.D., Ophthalmologist

Cataracts, which are related to aging, diminish vision by clouding the lens of the eye. It is a common condition as more than half of all Americans age 80 or older have had a cataract or corrective surgery, according to the National Eye Institute of the National Institute of Health.

The major parts of the eye include the lens, cornea, iris, pupil and retina. The lens, which is comprised of water and protein, acts similarly to a camera lens, focusing light on the retina to record an image. It also focuses the eye.

The protein in a healthy eye is precisely arranged to keep the lens clear, allowing light to pass to the retina. However, over time, the protein may clump together with the result being a cataract. The lens slowly becomes yellowish-brown, adding a tint to a person’s vision. As the cataract enlarges, more of the lens gradually becomes obscured further, limiting vision.

Other factors besides age that affect vision include smoking, diabetes, obesity, certain medications, previous eye injury or surgery, continued sunlight exposure and family history.
A person may be developing cataracts if he or she develops blurry or cloudy vision, sees increased glare or halo around lights, has decreased night vision, experiences double vision and has to change eyeglass prescriptions frequently.

One experiencing such symptoms should first have a comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist, who will perform a variety of diagnostic tests to determine the exact type of cataract.

Once confirmed, the treatment will be determined by the degree and type of cataracts. In the early stages, a new eyeglasses prescription and brighter lighting may help. However, when vision continues to decline and impact everyday life, the cataract may need to be removed through surgery. In certain circumstances, a cataract may have to be removed even if it doesn’t impact vision.

The eye specialist will determine which type of surgery will be used to remove the clouded lens. An artificial clear, plastic lens will be implanted, which acts like a natural lens. If a person has another eye disease or complications, it may not be possible to use an intraocular lens. Other alternatives may be suggested such as a soft contact lens or special magnifying eyeglasses. There are special intraocular lenses that can correct for astigmatism as well as lenses that lessen the need for any glasses. These options will be discussed with the ophthalmologist at your consultation.

Following surgery, it is imperative that the patient wash his or her hands before touching the eye; keep the eye clean; and, to decrease the risk of infection, use prescription medication as directed. Infection can have a serious and permanent effect: loss of vision.

Cataract surgery is the most common surgery in the U.S., according to Prevent Blindness America, with about three million procedures performed each year. Approximately 90 percent of cases experience an improvement in vision to an average of 20/20 to 20/40. Most people see an immediate difference; however, it takes time for the eye to completely heal as the two eyes adjust to work together.

By 2020, an estimated 30 million Americans will have cataracts, according to Prevent Blindness America. However, with proper eye care and treatment, more people will be able to retain their vision at an optimal level.

Ophthalmologist Ronald Bezahler, M.D., is a member of The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) medical staff. He practices at 70 Meriden Ave., Southington (860-621-6757). For referrals to HOCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 1-800-321-6244 or online,