This Leading Cause of Blindness Impacts 24 Million Americans

A family member hit a pole in a parking deck at full Speed a few years back.  While that is just around 15 miles an hour in a garage, you can still total a car at those speeds when dueling concrete.  She did.  More shocking to hear was that She just didn’t see it.  We all learned cataracts were making her nearly blind.  As they worsened over the years, and she compensated, she had no idea how bad they had gotten.

I was sitting with my Dad one morning early this weekend, and it dawned on me he wasn’t wearing his bifocals.  We live far apart and hadn’t seen each other in almost a year.  I’d never known him not to have them on….or the New graduated lenses he moved to a few years back.  When I joined him, he was watching TV, so I asked him if he was just listening.  He shared with me his cataract surgery had restored his vision to 20/20, and even reading the paper was easy.  At almost 80y/o, that was awesome news!

More than half of Americans either have a cataract or have had surgery for them by his age. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision impairment in the US and the number one cause of blindness around the world.  This month, designated Cataract Awareness Month, “shines a light on the prevalent problem of cataracts”.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision and is especially common in older adults. In the US, a full 17% of Americans age 40 and over have cataracts in one or both eyes.

In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the retina (tissue filled with light sensitive cells at the back of the eye). There, light is converted by those special cells into signals transmitted by nerves to create images in the brain. For the retina to receive a sharp image, the lens must be clear. When it is not, as with a cataract, what one sees will be blurry.

Make time to schedule an appointment with an eyecare professional when you experience any of the following 7 signs you may have cataracts:

Cloudy days

Cataracts start small and initially may have negligible effect on your vision. Things might seem a little blurry — like looking at an impressionist painting. This effect usually increases over time. The world will seem increasingly cloudy, blurry, or dim.

No more wild nights

As cataracts become more advanced, they begin to darken with a yellow or brown tinge.  This begins to affect night vision and makes certain nighttime activities, such as driving, more difficult.  A study from Curtin University in Australia found that treating cataracts reduced the risk of car accidents by 13 percent.

If you suspect you have cataracts, be very careful at night and don’t drive when your vision is compromised.  Would have been great advice for our family member.

The glare of bright lights

Light sensitivity is a common symptom of cataracts. The glare of bright lights can be painful, especially to those with posterior subcapsular cataracts, according to the Mayo Clinic. These types of cataracts start at the back of the lens, blocking the path of light and often interfere with your reading vision.

Halos everywhere?

The clouding of the lens can result in diffraction of light entering your eye. This can cause a halo to appear around light sources. Rings around every light, sometimes in a variety of colors, can make driving very difficult. This is another reason why driving at night, especially when there are streetlights and headlights, can be dangerous if you have a cataract.

Your Glass is Half Full

If you find yourself frequently needing stronger glasses or contacts, you may have cataracts. Simply buying a strong pair of reading glasses from the drugstore isn’t going to fix the problem. See an eye doctor if your eyesight is changing rapidly. You may have cataracts or another eye condition that will benefit with prompt treatment.

Living in a yellow submarine

As cataracts progress, the clumps of protein clouding your lens may turn yellow or brownish. This results in all the light coming into your eye having a yellow tint. It’s almost as though you are wearing “blue-blocker” sunglasses, as advertised on TV, which block blue and violet light. This changes how you see color and reduces your ability to tell the difference between colors.

Double trouble

Diffraction from the lens clouding in a cataract can actually lead you to see two or more images of a single object. Many things can cause double vision, also called diplopia, including:

  • brain tumor
  • corneal swelling
  • multiple sclerosis
  • stroke
  • cataracts

Binocular double vision, which causes two images to be visible only if both eyes are open, can be a sign of serious health concerns, including:

Monocular double vision, which causes multiple images to appear in one eye but not the other, is more likely to be an issue with your eye’s cornea or lens. Cataracts is a common cause of diplopia. As the cataract grows larger, this effect may go away.

More Insights into Cataracts

What is the treatment for cataracts?

While so very prevalent, they are also very simple to treat. The solution for the clouding of the eye with cataracts is often surgery requiring the removal of the deteriorated lens.  The unhealthy lens is replaced with an artificial, intraocular lens, or IOL. Over 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery annually, making it one of the most common surgeries in the United States. In fact, the entire surgery lasts only about 20 minutes, and most people can resume normal activities fairly rapidly.

Is cataract removal safe?

Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries, enjoying a success rate of 95 percent. Your surgeon will remove your clouded lens and replace it with an intraocular lens through a minuscule incision in the cornea – the highly organized tissue covering the eye.  Only 15 minutes are required to complete the procedure in an outpatient surgery center.

Do cataracts only affect seniors?

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 and even children. Heredity, disease, eye injury and smoking are causes for cataracts to develop at an earlier age.

Can I prevent cataracts?

There is no proven way to prevent age-related cataracts. However, choosing a healthy lifestyle can slow their progression. Some ways to delay the progression of cataracts include smoking abstinence, minimizing exposure to UV rays and radiation, eating healthy foods, maintaining healthy blood sugars and blood pressures, and wearing proper eye protection to avoid eye injury.

A patient and their optometrist should discuss any of these symptoms and options for care.  While some of these might suggest a variety of vision problems, an eyecare practitioner will be able to determine whether the patient may have cataracts through a comprehensive eye exam.  They will then collaborate with the individual on the best course of action.

THE GOOD NEWS:  While cataracts are — in most cases — a natural part of aging, removal typically results in vastly improved vision!!  Looking to get connected to a great eyecare professional near you?  Go to HealthLynked.com to find a practitioner who will help you sharpen your focus and get you seeing more clearly in no time.

With HealthLynked, you can find physicians and practitioners who want to collaborate closely with you to help you live in the very best possible state of wellness and avoid immobile concrete pillars.

Sources:

YourSightMatters.com

HealthLine.com

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus

 

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