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One of the more common questions that comes up in our office is "What are cataracts?"  They are one of the more common things we see in practice, and generally are one of the most treatable forms of vision impairment.

Cataracts 101: What exactly are cataracts?

Inside the eye, there is a natural lens that allows us to focus.  When we are younger, it even changes shape a little to allow us to change focus from distance to near and back again.  As we age, that natural lens becomes yellow and cloudy.  When your optometrist looks in your eye, he or she can see the clouding of the lens and diagnose the cataract.  There are actually a few different forms of cataract, meaning different patterns in which the clouding can happen.  Sometimes people can have a mix of multiple types.  The most common is nuclear sclerosis, which is that natural, all over, yellowing of the lens.  Cortical form just like spokes on a bike, starting at the edge of the lens and pointing to the middle.  Posterior subcapsular (PSC) form on the back surface of the lens, usually right in the middle of your vision.

Cataracts 101: What are the symptoms of cataracts?  How do I know I have them?

Early cataracts may not have any symptoms.  We expect to see some normal aging changes in the lens starting anywhere after age 40.  Typically they progress very slowly, over many years.  The first symptoms to usually show up are glare, especially at night.  The clouding of the lens causes light to scatter in the eye more, which is what makes glare so much worse.  Color vision can also be affected.  Eventually when the cataracts are mature, your vision will be blurry no matter what glasses or contact lenses are prescribed.  It is like looking through a dirty window.

Cataracts 101: What can be done about cataracts?

Some things can make cataracts worse sooner.  These include certain medications (systemic steroids being a prime example), diabetes, and smoking.  Eventually everyone does get cataracts no matter what they do.  When they are mature enough that they are impairing vision to a certain level, they are surgically removed.  There are many new techniques that have been developed even within the last few years, including the use of lasers.   When it is time for the cataracts to come out, an ophthalmologist will make small incisions at the edge of the cornea (the front clear part of the eye), break up the natural lens inside the eye, and remove it.  An artificial lens is then inserted in its place.  One of the nice benefits of cataract surgery is that the artificial lens can be used to correct your vision, at least at distance.  Some lenses can even correct vision at distance and near, reducing your dependence on glasses significantly.  As with any surgery, cataract surgery has its risks, which are important to discuss with your doctor.




Getting a Full Night's Sleep for Healthy Eyes



 Getting Enough Sleep?

We all know that getting enough sleep is important for overall health and well-being.  From blood pressure to emotional mood to weight loss, sleep is a vital part of our lives.  Many of us do not get nearly enough, and our health can suffer because of it.  

How much is enough?  The Mayo Clinic reports that adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night for optimal health (  Many of us do not reach this threshold, and it can have some impacts on our bodies- including our eyes.

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep apnea is a big culprit for eye problems.  It occurs when the soft pallate collapses during sleep, which reduces oxygen flow.  This can lead to a myriad of eye conditions including optic neuropathy, glaucoma, floppy eyelid syndrome, and retinal vein occlusion. It can even lead to resistance in recovery from age-related macular degeneration (F. Lowry, Untreated Sleep Apnea Interferes with Treatment for AMD, Medscape, May 28, 2012.).  Many of these conditions can lead to irreversible vision loss.

Eye Strain

Most of us are on devices for some part of our day (and some for almost all of their day).  Getting a good, restful sleep can allow our eyes to recover from all that screen time and for the focusing muscles to relax.

Eye Twitching

Have you ever had an eyelid twitch that won't go away no matter what you do?  Ocular myokymia is a benign (albeit annoying) condition where the upper or lower eyelid twitches for short intervals at a time.  It can last a few weeks to a month. Typical causes for this condition include not getting enough sleep, too much stress, and too much caffeine.

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