June is Cataract Awareness Month. Dr. Lawrence Woodard encourages African-Americans to know the basics about the condition including the physical and emotional impact and the benefits of treatment.
What exactly are cataracts?
Cataracts cloud the eye’s naturally clear lens, blocking or changing how light passes through and resulting in blurry vision. It is the most common condition associated with aging – it affects more than 24 million people age 40 and older, in the United States. That includes nearly 2 million African-Americans.
At what age do we need to start being concerned about them?
Nearly everyone who lives long enough will develop cataracts. While cataracts can happen at any age, I encourage people to start taking notice of vision changes around 40 and to visit their eye doctor for an annual exam. Studies have revealed that African-Americans are twice as likely to develop early onset cataracts due to certain medical conditions such as diabetes.
What are the early signs of having cataracts?
Cataracts normally start with blurry vision and can turn into difficulty doing everyday tasks like driving at night, working, seeing colors and watching tv and movies. If you also have frequent changes in your eyeglass or contact prescriptions, this could be another signal that you are developing cataracts.
Is there anything we can do to prevent cataracts?
While cataracts can’t be prevented, there are ways that you can slow down the progression or severity. The most important thing to do is to reduce your eyes’ exposure to sun by wearing sunglasses. Another important thing for the African-American community, specifically those with diabetes, is to stay on track with managing blood sugar and maintaining a healthy weight.
Why are African-Americans twice as likely to develop early onset cataracts?
This trend is mostly due to the prevalence of diabetes in the african-american community.
Are cataracts easily treated?
Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the U.S – more than 3 million surgeries are performed every year. Many patients don’t realize that there are treatment options that can not only fix cataracts but other vision conditions like astigmatism, farsightedness and nearsightedness at the same time. This could potentially reduce the need for the glasses they might have worn their whole lives.
For more information on the condition and treatment options, visit www.mycataracts.com or call 1-844-mycataract.
Is there anything to be afraid of when it comes to cataract surgery?
A new survey from Alcon found that nearly 4 in 10 African-Americans agreed that they were worried something would go wrong and they’d lose their vision or they would end up with visual disturbances after cataract surgery. Though all surgery has risk, the good news is that cataract surgery is one of the most common, safe and effective procedures today. The survey also found that three in four people report being happier, more satisfied and having a greater appreciation for life. So there are emotional benefits to overcoming those fears.
Dr. Lawrence Woodard is a board-certified ophthalmologist and the Medical Director of Omni Eye Services of Atlanta. He specializes in cataract surgery and was the first cataract surgeon in the Atlanta metro area to offer bladeless laser cataract surgery to his patients.
Dr. Woodard is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College. He completed medical school at Duke University.
Dr. Woodward answers your Text Tom questions below:
How often will a person have this procedure repeated in a lifetime?
One misconception is that cataracts may return after they are removed. The fact is that once you have cataract surgery on your eye(s), there are no more procedures necessary.
Does the new lens also cloud? I had cataract surgery in both eyes and my vision was great but 2 years later, it is going down.
The new lens does not become cloudy. However, the membrane holding the new implant may become cloudy after surgery and require an in-office laser procedure to improve vision again. Please see your eye doctor for more information.
Can hypertension cause cataracts?
No, there is no association between cataracts and hypertension.
How does marijuana place a role in cataracts?
There is no association between cataract development or treatment.
What about transgression lenses?
Transition lenses, or those eyeglasses lenses that adjust to sunlight, do have ultraviolet protection and are an effective way to help protect your eyes from the progression of cataracts.
I have always had 2 little dark dots in my right eye. I don’t have a problem seeing but do you know what those are?
Most likely it represents normal pigment on the surface of the eye. However, I encourage to see your eye doctor for more information.
Does LASIK eliminate cataracts?
No, cataract development will still progress despite having LASIK surgery.
What is your opinion on laser treatment for eye floaters?
Recently, laser treatment for floaters has become available. However, there are some risks associated. Therefore, I recommend you discuss treatment options with your eye doctor.
Do tinted eyeglasses protect eyes as well as sunglasses do?
Most tinted glasses do have ultraviolet protection. However, you should confirm that with your eye doctor.
Dr, I had both eyes done over ten years ago, but my vision has never gotten any better. I’d even say it may be worse. I’m 52 and in pretty good health. Any suggestions?
I’m unable to determine why your vision has not improved. However, I recommend you see an eye doctor to determine the cause for your impaired vision because many new treatments and technologies have become available over the last decade to improve vision.
Dr. Woodard I have a high astigmatism. Can I wear contact lenses?
Yes, there are contact lens options to correct high levels of astigmatism. See your eye doctor to determine if you are a candidate and what options are available.
Dr.. Woodard, my eyes have been diagnosed as abnormal and are in the pre-glaucoma stage. My opthamologist is close to putting me on drops. I have green eyes and have been told drops change the color of the iris. Is that true?
Yes, some drops for glaucoma may change the color of the iris gradually over time. However, most do not have any impact on iris color. Talk to your doctor to share your concerns and determine which drops would be the best option for you.
How long does cataract surgery normally take?
Cataract surgery typically takes 5 to 10 minutes per eye. And the patient is usually able to go home a few minutes after surgery. Typically, we only perform surgery on one eye at a time and wait a minimum of one to two weeks before performing surgery on the other eye. Visit MyCataracts.com to hear patient testimonials about the surgery experience and for more information on treatment options.
Can Dr. Woodard share more about the process of cataract surgery and the risks?
Cataract surgery is one of the most successful and common procedures performed in the country with very minimal risks. It takes 5 to 10 minutes per eye and the patient is usually able to go home a few minutes after surgery. Most people are seeing better as early as the day after surgery.
Last week I got my eyes mapped at the eye doctor. They found a freckle on my left eye. They said this could be the beginning of potential cornea cancer. So they want to watch it every six months. Is this accurate?
Most growths on the cornea are benign. However, any growth should be followed closely due to the potential for malignancy.
How do you decide when it’s time for surgery and how much of LASIK vision will be restored?
If you are having difficulty performing normal daily tasks like working, driving and seeing colors, then you should discuss with your eye doctor if it is time to proceed with surgery. If LASIK was previously performed, then the quality of vision after cataract surgery should be similar to your visual experience right after LASIK surgery.
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