Common Misconceptions About Cataracts

Elderly couple smiling after Cataract SurgeryWhen it comes to cataracts, there are many common misconceptions that come up. Learn what to expect if you have cataracts and how to get your vision back!

What Is A Cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye. The term comes from a Latin word meaning “portcullis”: a barrier sliding down to cover and block an opening. In a healthy eye, light passes through the lens to the retina. When the lens loses its transparency, light is blocked and vision is compromised. Most cataracts are related to aging. According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of all Americans develop cataracts by the age of eighty.
Some Common Misconceptions About Cataracts

MYTH: Cataracts can be dissolved with eye drops or medication.

The Reality: This idea springs from an incorrect understanding of cataracts as being an extra layer of cloudy film that accumulates on top of the eye. In fact, the cataract is the lens itself. The only way to restore vision is to remove that lens and replace it with a new, clear one. There are manufacturers who claim that their drops or supplements will prevent, dissolve, or cure cataracts. Buyer beware: none of these products has been approved by the FDA. It is possible to slow the development of cataracts by not smoking, eating a diet that supports healthy eyes, and wearing sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection.

MYTH: Eye-strain from too much reading or screen-time makes cataracts worse.

The Reality: Unfortunately, cataracts are a natural part of aging. They’re not caused or exacerbated by how we use our eyes. It is true that they tend to be more noticeable when we’re engaged in close-up, visually demanding activities.

MYTH: A cataract in one eye can spread to the other.

The Reality: Cataracts are not infectious. It’s perfectly possible to develop a cataract in one eye and not in the other.

MYTH: Cataract surgery is dangerous.

The Reality: This was certainly true decades ago, but cataract surgery has been a safe procedure for a long time. In fact, it’s one of the most highly perfected surgical procedures, with a 95% success rate in the United States. However, every surgery involves some degree of risk. You should discuss these with your doctor, and learn about good postoperative self-care.

MYTH: Once removed, cataracts sometimes grow back.

The Reality: Again, cataracts are not a cloudy growth on top of the eye. They develop as the cells in the lens die and become opaque. Once that lens is replaced, there’s nothing to “grow back”. Once in a while, patients do develop a secondary cataract, when the membrane that holds the new lens becomes cloudy. This can be treated quickly and easily with laser surgery: a painless 15 minute outpatient procedure.

MYTH: Cataracts inevitably cause blindness.

The Reality: This is completely untrue. More than three million people have cataract surgery each year in the United States, and 98% of them report improved vision.

MYTH: Vitamin E or Vitamin C prevents cataracts

The Reality: There may be a link between these two vitamins and eye health. Researchers are still studying the question. We’re still far from understanding how they support good vision, or how they might prevent cataracts. For now, it’s best to eat a healthy diet and avoid taking large doses of supplements unless they’ve been prescribed by your doctor.

Have additional questions about cataracts or cataract surgery? Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our cataract surgeons!

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