National Cataracts Awareness Month – June 2019
June is National Cataracts Awareness Month.
The purpose is to raise awareness about cataracts, and what you can do to prevent losing your sight.
Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, and it is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Cataracts currently affect more than 20.5 million Americans over age 40. By age 65, over 90% of people in the US will develop cataracts. By age 75, cataracts can significantly affect their vision.
The eyes have a natural crystalline lens, which helps us focus on objects at varying distances. Unfortunately, as we grow older this lens often stiffens and hardens, and without its youthful suppleness it loses its ability to focus. This creates vision problems. As we age, these changes occurring to the natural crystalline lens can lead to the development of cataracts, or a loss in clarity of the lens. Since the lens is no longer as flexible or as clear as it used to be, the eye can’t focus light properly.
Luckily for those of us who live in the U.S., doctors can easily correct cataracts with surgery. Ophthalmologists perform around three million cataract surgeries in the country each year, with an overall success rate of more than 98%.
Awareness is key to preventing cataracts. Here are some handy tips & facts about cataracts:
- Age isn’t the only risk factor for cataracts. Though most everyone will develop cataracts with age, recent studies show that lifestyle and behavior can influence when and how severely you develop cataracts. Diabetes, extensive exposure to sunlight, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and genetic factors may all increase risk of cataracts. In addition, eye injuries, prior eye surgery, and long-term use of steroid medication can also result in cataracts.
- You can lower your risk. Wear UV-blocking sunglasses and brimmed hats when outside. Foods rich in Vitamin C can delay how fast cataracts form. Avoid smoking cigarettes, which greatly increases the risk of cataract development.
- Cataracts treatment is both simple and safe! Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye, which prevents passage of light into the eye. The solution to cataracts is cataract surgery, which requires a surgeon to remove the deteriorated lens and replace it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or ‘IOL’. Only a miniscule incision in the cornea is necessary to do this procedure, and it can be completed in about 15 minutes in an outpatient surgery center. Cataract surgery is actually one of the safest and most effective surgeries!
- Cataracts can affect anyone! Although most people do not show symptoms of cataracts until at least the age of 40, cataracts can also affect young adults or even children. Heredity, disease, eye injury and smoking could cause cataracts to develop at an earlier age.
- There is no proven way to prevent age-related cataracts. However, choosing a healthy lifestyle can slow the progression of cataracts. Some ways to delay the progression of cataracts include avoiding smoking, reducing exposure to UV ray, eating a variety of healthy foods, and wearing eye protection to avoid eye injury.
Some symptoms of cataracts include:
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Cloudy or blurred vision
- Frequent prescription changes for glasses or contact lenses
- Poor night vision
- Color vision changes and colors fading or dimming
- Double vision in a single eye
Keep an eye out for changes in your vision, as cataracts affect people differently. Keep up with annual eye exams and contact your ophthalmologist if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.