Many people associate cataracts with being a rare and scary eye disease, or something only a 90-year-old person will get. On the contrary, optometrists diagnose cataracts (on a daily basis) in patients of all ages.
Regardless of age, every single one of us is at risk for cataracts. You may be wondering how?! Harmful UV rays from the sun. From the day we are born, we are all exposed to UV rays. Inside of your eye, you have a natural lens, which is nice and clear. Over time, exposure to UV rays causes the lens to become more yellow, more opaque, and/or cloudier; this is a cataract.
Although it is uncommon, babies can also be born with congenital cataracts, which may or may not affect their vision. It is crucial to make sure these cataracts do not affect their vision. Since children are still developing, it is important that the eyes and brain receive a clear and unobstructed image. If this does not happen, a “lazy eye” may result because the proper neural connections from the eye to the brain were not developed.
Additionally, some adults are more prone to developing cataracts earlier in life: such as those who have diabetes, are exposed to the sun frequently, are very nearsighted, are more genetically predisposed, or are using steroid medication.
What can you do to protect your eyes from cataracts? UV protection is key. Transitions lenses and sunglasses are highly recommended for all individuals. In addition to being proactive about UV protection, getting regular eye exams is the best way for your doctor to monitor the current state of your lenses.