Did you know that more than 22 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from cataracts? While most of us are aware that cataracts negatively impact our vision, that’s usually the extent of our knowledge. Let’s take this opportunity to learn more about cataract vision impairment, different types of cataracts, various risk factors, and more. We’ll also discuss how caregivers can help those with cataracts or other vision impairments.
What are the different types of cataracts?
A very basic description of cataracts is a clouding of the lens over time. The lenses in our eyes are made from water and protein, but as we age, the proteins may clump together and “cloud” the lens. This results in hazy vision, and can progress all the way to blindness if the clouding continues to spread. According to All About Vision, there are three types of cataracts:
- A subcapsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens. People with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a subcapsular cataract.
- A nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone (nucleus) of the lens. Nuclear cataracts usually are associated with aging.
- A cortical cataract is characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the center in a spoke-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.
Who is susceptible to developing cataracts?
Unfortunately, cataracts are a vision impairment that can affect any person, of any race or gender. Increasing age is one of the leading causes, and if we’re privileged enough to live to a ripe old age, cataracts may be a small price to pay. But age is not the only factor that decides whether a person develops cloudy lenses or not. Here are some other considerations that increase the chances:
- Obesity, hypertension, and diabetes
- Frequent statin or corticosteroid use
- A family history of cataracts
- Prolonged exposure to the sun
What is the treatment for cataracts?
While glasses and contacts can correct poor vision, cataracts can only be fixed through surgery. Thankfully, this procedure is relatively simple, and it has become one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States. It’s an outpatient procedure, so no overnight hospital stays are required (although there is a recovery period, especially if a stitch is required). During cataract surgery, the clouded lens is broken apart by an ultrasound device, and the pieces are then suctioned out. An intraocular lens (often made of silicone or acrylic) is then inserted to function as the natural lens once did. After the incision is closed, the procedure is over.
How might cataracts affect those in home care, and how can Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses help?
In the early stages of developing cataracts, a person’s vision may not be serious impacted. But as the cloudiness increases and/or spreads, vision will become hazy, then blurry, and then eventually more and more blinding. This can make activities of daily living (known as ADLs) increasingly difficult. For instance, it may be impossible for a person to tell whether they are taking the right medication, setting the stove correctly, safe to drive, or able to complete any number of other daily tasks. When vision impairment becomes such that a person needs assistance with ADLs, it’s time to get help.
Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses offers a wide range of services, from just a few hours per day or week to round-the-clock care. One of the services best suited to those whose cataracts are impacting their lives is Geriatric Care Management. With this service, our caregivers assist clients with tasks like grocery shopping, light housecleaning, meal preparation, medication reminders, and companionship. For someone with poor eyesight (especially as a newer development), this kind of assistance can greatly increase quality of life. Contact us today if someone you know is suffering from cataracts, and could use a helping hand!