Did you know that cataracts are the most common cause of blindness worldwide? By 2050, research indicates that there could be 50 million cases of cataracts worldwide, mainly due to the aging population. Sadly, many parts of the world lack good eye care and simply don’t have enough eye surgeons, but southwest Floridians are lucky to have Elmquist Eye Group, the best cataract surgeons in the USA, right here in Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

What is a cataract?

Best Cataract Surgeons in USACataracts occur when protein breaks down in the eye. This breakdown is a natural part of aging, but the proteins end up clumping together and clouding the lens. Because the lens functions to focus light on the retina (the tissue in the back of the eye), these protein deposits block the light and cloud the vision. The clouding of the lens can become so severe that it causes blindness if left untreated.

Most cataracts are age-related; by age 80, almost everyone will have some form of cataract, according to research done by the National Eye Institute (NEI). Some people as young as 40 have blurred vision from a cataract, but normally people don’t have significant issues until after age 60.

Genetics play a role

Genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle choices all factor in. Amazingly, researchers have found nearly 40 genes that are associated with cataracts, and there are likely many more. Scientists are developing a better understanding of the genetics of cataracts, and that helps doctors to understand more about how the lens works and who might be at higher risk for developing a cataract. Some NEI researchers have studied the genetics of large families in India and Pakistan to identify genes and mutations that have influenced cataract development.

These studies have provided researchers with a better understanding of the crystal clear proteins called crystallins that help with lens transparency. These proteins are abundant in the eye, and when they remain stable, they are transparent. As the proteins become unstable, they clump on the lens and cause cataracts. Scientists are working to understand what keeps crystallins stable; they already know that UVB radiation is a negative factor. There is also a gene mutation that makes crystallins unstable.

What else causes a cataract?

Exposure to UV rays is also a big factor in whether you will develop a cataract and how quickly it will progress. Finally, the wear and tear put on your body by smoking and excess alcohol consumption can also play a role.

Researchers hope that one day, these genetic studies might lead to a treatment other than cataract surgery. For example, an effective topical drug might be developed. However, in the mean time, cataract surgery does remain the only way to fix a cataract. People can certainly take steps to prevent their cataracts, such as wearing UV-protective sunglasses, eating a nutrient-rich diet and refraining from smoking.

If you suspect you have a cataract, or wonder whether you do, come see us at Elmquist Eye Group. Most patients don’t need surgery right away, but if you do, you can take comfort that your eye care is in the hands of the best cataract surgeons in the USA. Give us a call today to make your appointment. The dedicated and experienced team at Elmquist Eye Group is ready for you to be our next new patient.