WILL YOU DEVELOP CATARACTS?
By David Mallory, M.D.
Cataracts cause 50% of all the blindness in the world. This
problem is likely to worsen in the future as the number of
older people in the world's population markedly increases.
In the United States alone, it is projected that the number
of persons age 55 and over will increase 85% in the 50 years
between 1980 and 2030.
The risk of cataracts at age 70 is 13-fold that at age 50.
The largest, longest, and most intensive medical study of
any population in the United States was done of the whole
town of Framingham Massachusetts. Among 2,477 people in this
study, mild to severe lens clouding (cataracts) were found
in 42%, 73% and 91% of persons age 52-64, 65-74, and 75-85,
respectively. Age-related cataracts (no other cause found),
decreasing vision, were found in 5% of people age 52-64, 18%
of persons 65-74, and 46% of persons age 75-85. Increasing
age is by far the strongest known risk factor for cataracts.
Age is not the only predisposing factor to the development
of cataracts. Cataracts are 3-4 times more common in people
who are diabetic. Fifty-six medications in current use have
been recorded to have some cataract causing effects.
Steroids taken by mouth over months to years are the most
likely drugs to cause cataracts.
Heredity can be the main factor. There is often a "genetic
anticipation," where cataracts in successive generations
appear at earlier ages. Several studies have shown that
people with increased ultraviolet exposure have a higher
incidence of cataracts. Heavy cigarette smoking and poor
nutrition have also been implicated in causing cataracts.
Fortunately, the treatment for a cataract which interferes
with a person's ability to function as they wish is
excellent. With modern ultrasonic removal of cataracts and
intraocular lenses which have higher resolution power than
did our own lens at any time in our lives, there is a 98%
chance people will see better after cataract surgery.
David Mallory, M.D. specializes in the treatment of
cataracts on an outpatient basis.