Cataracts and Cataract Surgery for Senior Citizens

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Published: 27th October 2009
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Cataracts & Cataract Surgery: Guide for Senior Citizens



A majority of senior citizens over the age of 80 have experienced what is known as a cataract, or a clouding of the lens in the eye, which usually leads to deteriorated eyesight. It is important that the seniors and those involved in their elder care take the appropriate measures to avoid and treat cataracts.



What are Cataracts?



This condition affects the lens, the clear part at the front of the eye, which focuses light into the retina and forms images that we see. In order to see a sharp image, the lens must be clear enough so that light that passes through can be translated into an image that we can perceive with our brain.



Cataracts can form in one or both of the eyes. They then cause the lens to be cloudy and make seeing a clear image difficult. The lens is made up mostly of water and protein, and clumps of protein can build up gradually until there is a noticeable affect of blurred vision. This will, in turn, affect the sharpness of eyesight. However, a less common form of cataract involves discoloration of the lens which only affects perception of color.



Senior citizens who are prone to cataracts tend to be those individuals who also suffer from diabetes, partake in activities like smoking and alcohol consumption, and may have had prolonged exposure to sunlight.



Elders who have cataracts usually complain of blurred vision or poor night vision, noticing a glare from bright objects, double or multiple images seen in one eye, and frequent prescription changes in glasses or contact lenses.



Cataract Diagnosis



Cataracts can be detected either by a visual acuity test which measures quality of eyesight at various distances. Tonometry, a method used to measure the pressure inside the eye, is another test that physicians use to detect signs of a cataract. Finally, a dilated eye exam aids an optometrist in inspecting the retina or nerves in order to diagnose a potential problem as well.



Treatment and Prevention of Cataracts



Although the process of cataracts forming in the lens cannot be reversed, poor eyesight that results can be remedied with better eyeglass prescriptions or any other method that aids in making images clearer for the individual suffering from poor eyesight. When eyesight is so degraded that it makes functioning difficult for senior citizens, some doctors recommend surgery that replaces the clouded lens with a clear artificial lens.



Cataract Eye Surgeries



Some people require this type of surgery because cataracts in early stages of development can interfere with the treatment of other eye problems like macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy which are also common among senior citizens. Surgery can only be performed on one eye at a time and often the surgeries must be spaced at least four weeks apart. The surgery is relatively safe and has a 90% success rate in terms of better eyesight experienced post-operation.



Two Types of Cataract Reparation Surgeries



* Phacoemulsification (phaco or small incision cataract surgery): This procedure involves a small incision in the cornea which allows for the entry of a probe which breaks up the lens so that it can be removed later by suction. This is in preparation for the replacement with the artificial lens

* Extracapsular: This procedure involves a larger incision which allows surgeons to remove a larger section of the lens without the use of a probe.



Artificial Lenses



Intraocular lenses are clear plastic lenses that form a permanent part of your eye and will not be able to be seen or felt. The procedure to put the lens in place only takes about an hour. The surgery is painless, and people who undergo the operation can return to normal activities that require vision very soon afterwards with little adjustment.



Senior citizens are recommended to protect their eyes from ultraviolet rays, avoid unhealthy habits like smoking, and eat a healthy diet in order to preserve their eyesight for as long as possible. Those caring for the elderly should remind seniors to protect their eyes and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Early detection of any eye disease is critical for treatment, so senior citizens are also advised to have a comprehensive eye exam once every two years.

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