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Cataracts are Like Grey Hair! Everyone Gets Them.

All patients eventually develop cataracts. Cataract symptoms include decreased vision and glare. Cataract surgery often benefits patients with diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration.

Everyone gets a cataract.  Just as grey hair, some people get cataracts at an early age and some people get them at a later age.  Patients with diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration aren’t spared either.

What is a cataract? A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens in the eye.  Very advanced cataracts actually are white, hence the name “cataract” to compare to the whiteness seen in a waterfall.  These days, a “white” cataract is pretty rare as cataract surgery is likely to have been performed much earlier.

Symptoms of Cataract include blurry vision, dim vision requiring more light and glare.  At some point, depending upon your visual acuity and quality of life, cataract surgery may be performed where the actual cloudy lens is replaced with a clear implant.  This is not performed by laser.

Cataracts are Not a Disease and usually occur with advancing age in perfectly healthy individuals.  A cataract forming in a 25 year old probably isn’t that common, but it wouldn’t be too surprising.  It is safe to say that most cataracts, however, occur at a later age.

Other Causes. Congenital cataracts occur at birth.  There are a few congenital syndromes where cataracts are present and require surgery during infancy.  Trauma may also cause cataracts.

There are a few diseases where cataracts are seem more commonly.  Patients with uveitis (arthritis-like inflammation inside the eye) may develop a cataract earlier than usual.

Patients with diabetes often develop cataracts earlier than the general population.

Patients with macular degeneration will develop cataracts, but usually occur with more advanced age.

Visual Loss may occur with progressing cataracts.  In patients with diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration, it is important to remember that cataract formation can occur in these patients as well.  While a patient with diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration may experience some loss of vision, regular examinations should be performed to determine if cataracts are an issue.

Diabetic patients should consider cataract surgery at a time with the diabetic retinopathy is stable.  Any macular edema should be resolved as cataract surgery, at times, can worsen the swelling.

Macular degeneration patients may safely consider cataract surgery when their doctor advises.

Remember, there are many reasons for decreased vision and having a retinal disease, such as diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration, does not preclude you from developing a cataract.

Afterall, vision changes from a cataract are “reversible.”

“Randy”

Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

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Comments
  • Ramiro February 22, 2013 at 12:48 am

    How did u pick up the ideas to post ““Cataracts
    Occur in Everyone”? Thank you ,Retha

    • Randall V. Wong, M.D. March 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Dear Ramiro,

      After several years in practice, I realized that most people believe cataracts to be inherited by an unlucky few. As you know, everyone gets them!

      Thanks for your comment.

      r

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