Approximately 25 million Americans have cataracts, which causes cloudy, blurry or dim vision and often develops with advancing age. This June, we observe Cataract Awareness Month by sharing three things everyone should know about the condition and its treatment.
As everyone grows older, the lenses of their eyes thicken and become cloudier. Eventually, they may find it more difficult to read street signs. Colors may seem dull. These symptoms may signal cataracts, which affect about 70 percent of people by age 75. Fortunately, cataracts can be corrected with surgery. Ophthalmologists perform around three million cataract surgeries each year to restore vision to those patients. Get an idea of what someone with cataracts might experience with this cataract vision simulator. The following are facts people should know about the condition.
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 certain ethnicities have all been linked to increased risk of cataracts. Eye injuries, prior eye surgery and long-term use of steroid medication can also result in cataracts. If you have any of these or other risk factors, talk to an ophthalmologist.
Cataracts cannot be prevented, but you can lower your risk. Wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and brimmed hats when outside can help. Several studies suggest that eating more vitamin C-rich foods may delay how fast cataracts form. Also, avoid smoking cigarettes, which have been shown to increase the risk of cataract development.
Surgery may help improve more than just your vision. During the procedure, the natural clouded lens is replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens, which should improve your vision significantly. Patients have a variety of lenses to choose from, each with different benefits. Studies have shown that cataract surgery can improve quality of life and reduce the risk of falling. If cataracts are interfering with your ability to see well, consider asking your ophthalmologist about cataract surgery.
A life-changing surgery
At age 49, Michael Sargent’s vision had become so impaired by cataracts that he couldn’t distinguish shapes or colors without his glasses on, even if objects were right in front of him. His ophthalmologist recommended cataract surgery.
“Having the surgery was life-changing,” said Sargent, who lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “I can see everything from the time on my alarm clock to a bird’s nest in a tree hundreds of feet away without glasses. It’s the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.”
Seniors concerned that they may have cataracts may qualify for a no-cost eye exam through EyeCare America. EyeCare America, one of largest public service programs in American medicine, is a program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that provides eye care through a pool of more than 5,000 volunteer ophthalmologists. Ninety percent of the care provided is at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. The program is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc., with additional support provided by Alcon and Regeneron. For more information, visit eyecareamerica.org.
Featured image photo credit: National Eye Insititute