Wellness Wednesday: Cataracts

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RAPID CITY, S.D. - Cataracts are a condition that isn't really heard or talked about, but they’re a problem that almost everyone will encounter. They are one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide and one of the most common outpatient surgeries.

Dr. Terry Spencer of the Black Hills Regional Eye Institute says the condition is simpler than most people think.

"A lot of times, when people first find out that they have a cataract, they think it’s a growth of something on the eye or something that can be scraped off the eye, but it’s not,” Spencer said. “It’s cloudiness of the lens."

Although it’s one of the leading causes of blindness, it’s not as daunting as it may sound. In the United States, approximately four million cataract surgeries are performed a year, with thousands performed at Black Hills Regional Eye Institute.

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Most cataract patients are in their sixties or older. However, some people get them at a younger age or are even born with them.

But are they preventable?

"Generally, good health is the best prevention,” Spencer said. “Antioxidant vitamins can be helpful, not smoking can be helpful, avoiding UV damage to your eyes - so using sunglasses.” 

The procedure to remove cataracts is relatively easy. The cutting of a tiny incision on the side of the eye will allow the cataract to be broken up. Once the cataract has dispersed, a brand new, artificial lens is implanted.

"The nice thing about cataract surgery, is in many people, we can make their visual function even better than it was before they got a cataract," Spencer explained.

The doctor has performed over 10,000 cataract surgeries and said that patients who were once severely nearsighted will no longer have that issue after surgery.

To view other Wellness Wednesday stories on our website, click here.

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