New Jersey Senior News

Aging is great for wine, but not when it comes to the health of your eyes. A common consequence of aging is the development of cataracts.

Many seniors are affected by cataracts that, in turn, affect their vision. Cataract surgery, where the eye’s natural lens is removed and replaced by an intraocular lens, tends to be very safe with a very high success rate. Yet, there are things that people with cataracts should be aware of.

As one ages, the eye’s lens becomes less flexible, less transparent and thicker. This results in areas of the lens becoming cloudy. If left in place, the cataract will become white and block vision. About 70 percent of people 75 and older have cataracts.

Here are some things to consider about cataracts:

If you are over 40 get a baseline exam. Signs of eye disease begin to occur at around this age. An eye exam should be performed annually.

Various risk factors increase the chances of cataracts. In addition to a family history, risk factors include diabetes, smoking, too much exposure to sunlight, eye injury or inflammation, and long-term use of steroids. Risks, however, can be reduced. Regardless of your age, wear UV-rated sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when you’re in the sun for an extended period of time. If you smoke, try to quit. Proper diet and regular exercise can also help.

Surgery is an individual decision. The adage that a cataract is ripe for surgery is no longer a valid concept. If glare, halos, blurriness and dimmed colors are complicating your ability to drive and read, surgery may be the right option for you. If it’s not affecting your lifestyle, you may want to wait.

Those considering surgery will need to give their doctor a complete medical and eye history, including their use of medication. Certain medications can cause the iris to move out of its normal position, which can lead to complications during surgery. The surgery can still be successful, but the surgeon may need to adjust his or her surgical technique.