Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S., affecting roughly 24 million Americans over the age of 40.
As you may know, June is National Cataract Awareness Month, so what better time than now to discuss some of the most frequently asked questions about this common eye condition and what you can do to prevent and treat it?
Take a look at the answers to some of the top questions about cataracts, and please feel free to reach out to our community nurses if you have additional questions or would like additional eye health resources in our community.
What Are Cataracts?
Cataracts are a clouding of one or more of the lenses in your eye(s). Normally, these lenses are very clear and are able to refract (bend) light in order for us to see clear images. When a cataract forms, it may appear as though you are looking through a dirty window.
What Causes Cataracts?
The most common cause of cataracts is the natural aging process, which is why they are more common in men and women over the age of 40. However, there are a number of other factors that may also contribute to the development of cataracts, including:
- Overexposure to sunlight
- High blood pressure
- Eye injury or trauma
- Prolonged use of corticosteroids
What Are Common Signs of Cataracts?
For most people, cataracts develop slowly over time, so you may not notice symptoms until the condition has progressed. Some of the most common signs of cataracts include:
- Cloudy or blurred vision
- Yellowing or fading of colors
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact prescriptions
- Appearance of “halos” or glares in your field of vision
Can Cataracts Be Prevented?
Although there is no proven way to prevent age-related cataracts from forming, you can make healthy lifestyle changes to help boost your eye health and slow their progression. Some key changes to make are:
- Wearing sunglasses when driving and outside in the sun
- Wearing proper eye protection to prevent eye injury
- Avoiding smoking
- Eating healthy foods that boost your eye health, such as carrots, kale, and wild-caught salmon
- Seeing your eye doctor regularly
- Avoiding using corticosteroid medications for a long period of time
How Are Cataracts Treated?
If you do develop a cataract, the good news is that they are fairly simple to treat. Cataract surgery involves the removal of the affected “cloudy” lense, which is then replaced with an artificial lense. This is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the country, with over 3 million Americans undergoing it each year.
Unlike many other surgeries, cataract surgery typically does not result in extensive downtime afterwards.
Cataracts are one of the most common eye problems among older Americans, but fortunately, treatment is usually very successful. If you are beginning to notice signs of developing cataracts, speak with an eye specialist and adopt healthy lifestyle habits to slow its progression.