“Humans have five senses: the eyes to see, the tongue to taste, the nose to smell, the ears to hear, and the skin to touch. By far the most important organs of sense are our eyes. We perceive up to 80 percent of all impressions by means of our sight. And if other senses such as taste or smell stop working, it’s the eyes that best protect us from danger.” Vision is one of the five senses we are born with. While there are those that are blessed to have all five senses, many can lose their senses through deformities, diseases, or unfortunate events. Many people take this for granted while others do not realize what they have until they have lost it. This month we sat down with Nhan Hoa’s Doctor of Optometry, Nancy Dang to learn about Cataract Awareness Month
1. What is a cataract and what causes it?
A cataract is the opacification of the normally clear crystalline lens causing slowly progressive visual loss or blurring over a period of months to years. Common causes of cataracts are age-related changes, ocular trauma, or chronic ocular inflammation. Cataracts may also develop secondary to chronic steroid use or systemic diseases, such as diabetes.
2. Are there different types of cataracts?
There are many different types of cataracts, but the most common are:
- Nuclear cataract which is a yellow or brown discoloration of the central lens. It usually affects distance vision more than near.
- Cortical cataract which is radial or spoke-like opacities in the periphery that can expand to involve the anterior and posterior lens. Cortical cataracts can cause glare.
- Posterior subcapsular cataract which is a plaque-like opacity of the posterior aspect of the lens. People with diabetes or history of chronic use of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a subcapsular cataract.
3. What are the risks for developing cataracts?
The most common cause of a cataract is normal aging of the crystalline lens. As we age, the lens composition starts to change and causes clouding. Besides advancing age, cataract risk factors include UV radiation, smoking, systemic disease, prolonged use of corticosteroid medication, and history of eye injury or inflammation.
4. How early do you know you have cataracts?
Cataracts usually develop in older patients, but children may also develop congenital cataracts so it is recommended to have your eyes examined yearly by an optometrist.
5. What are the precautions you can take to prevent cataracts?
The topic of whether cataracts can be prevented is still controversial. There are a number of studies that suggest nutritional supplements and antioxidant vitamins may help reduce the risk of cataracts, but nothing is conclusive at this time. Another way to prevent cataracts is by wearing sunglasses that block 100% of the sun’s UV rays.
6. Do you have any comments for those that don’t seek help?
Cataracts are the most common cause of decreased vision in people over the age of 40 and are the most common cause of blindness in the world. A cataract will start out small and may not affect your vision right away. The clouding of the lens may make it seem like you are looking through a dirty window. Depending on the type of cataract, you may also experience problems with glare, especially at night. If you think you have a cataract, it is recommended that you see an eye doctor for an exam.
7. What is the treatment for cataracts?
Cataract surgery is considered once the cataract has progressed enough that it impairs your vision or significantly affects your daily life. Cataract surgery is the most common surgery in the United States. It is a simple procedure where the surgeon will remove your cloudy lens and replace it with a plastic intraocular lens (IOL). After the surgery, depending on the type of IOL lens you have you may still need reading glasses, so it is recommended that you see your eye doctor 3 months after cataract surgery for a prescription check.
Quote:“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” – Mahatma Gandhi
About Dr. Nancy Dang, Optometrist
Dr. Nancy Dang is a recent graduate of Southern California College of Optometry at Marschall B. Ketchum University. Her previous education includes University of California, Irvine where she obtained a Bachelor of Science.
Dr. Dang is Glaucoma and Therapeutic Pharmaceutical Agent certified with Diagnostic and Ocular Disease management abilities. Her knowledge includes Optical Coherence Tomography, Fundus Photography and Visual Field Testing. She speaks Vietnamese, Spanish, and English.
Her experiences include interning at the Eye Care Center, Elementary School Vision Screener, Optometric Technician at Clearvision Optometry and Optometric Intern at California State University of Fullerton and Ikeda Optometry. Her clinical rotations include University Eye Care in Los Angeles, Veteran Affairs Hospital in North Las Vegas, and West Los Angeles.
On her spare time, Dang is an active member of American Optometric Student Association, National Optometric Student Association, Omega Delta Optometric Fraternity, Spanish Optometric Society, Private Practice Club and Fountain Valley Hospital Volunteer. At her alma mater, she is in the Event Coordinator for California Public Interest Research Group, Vietnamese Student Association, Medical Education Mission Outreach and Student Health Organization.
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