DALLAS, Texas – Age related cataracts, cloudiness in the lens of one or both eyes, affects more than 22-million Americans. It's no longer a condition that is limited to seniors; younger people are developing cataracts, and many are electing to fix them at an earlier age. Wendy Loll is one of them.
"As the cataracts got worse the night-vision was really scary," she said.
Dr. Jeffrey Whitman, an ophthalmologist at Key-Whitman Eye Center in Dallas, used a high-tech tool to diagnose this forty-something year old with a condition that used to be considered just a part of old age.
"What we are seeing is we see cataracts at a much earlier age than we used to, now part of that may be detection, we can detect them earlier," explained Whitman.
To make that diagnosis, Whitman used a new device called an HD analyzer; it puts a low-level laser into the retina and measures light scatter which can indicate early signs of cataracts. He then corrected the problem with surgery, inserting high tech lenses to make Wendy's vision 20-20.
"You know we are in that bionic time in some ways," said Whitman.
All Loll knows is that she's footloose, because she can see again.
"I would definitely recommend getting it checked out," said Loll. "Don't be afraid, get it taken care of, it's no big deal and your eyes are precious."
Doctors say some possible reasons for younger patients to develop cataracts include sun exposure, medications and food additives and preservatives. According to the National Eye Institute, by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery to replace the deteriorating lenses of the eyes.
The majority of cataracts are age-related; however, other factors can cause the condition. Diabetes, smoking and large alcohol consumption can increase the risk for developing cataracts as well as unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and certain drugs such as corticosteroids, chlorpromazine, and other phenothiazine-related medications. Studies have suggested that cataracts can form as a result of certain nutritional deficiencies such as low levels of vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids. A cataract can be diagnosed by a comprehensive eye exam which takes into account a patient's history as well as examination of the retina, lens and pressure within the eye, among other factors.
TREATMENT: Treating cataracts may be as simple as a change in eye glass prescription, if it affects a patient minimally, as well as increased light when reading or anti-glare lenses when driving at night. Severe cataracts require surgery that remove a patients' lens and replace it with an artificial one. There are two approaches generally used for cataract surgery. Small incision cataracts surgery is performed by making an incision in the side of the cornea and inserting a tiny probe into the eye which emits ultrasound waves that soften and break-up the lens so it can be removed by suction. This process is called phacoemulsification. Extracapsular surgery is another type of surgery in which a larger incision is made in the cornea and the lens is removed in one piece.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new tool helping with the diagnosis of cataracts is the HD Analyzer which is a diagnostic system that allows for an objective analysis of optical quality in a person's eye. It objectively measures light scatter, which is not measurable using traditional aberrometry techniques. Light scatter is caused by several ocular factors such as corneal disease or imperfections on the ocular surface as well as cataract formation, which can lead to degradation in retinal image quality. The unique technology utilizes double-pass retinal imaging and uses a near infrared light source that is imaged onto the retina. The size and shape of the light are analyzed by the system in order to determine the higher order aberrations present as well as scattered light. It gives ophthalmologists the ability to go beyond traditional subjective means of vision assessment. For more information on the HD Analyzer, visit: www.medeuronet.com.