June is Cataract Awareness Month, and we want to take time to educate the public about cataracts and ways to reduce your risk. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss within the United States and are the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. The lens helps to focus light onto the retina, which then transmits images to the brain. Your vision may become blurry, dimmed, or lost as a result of a cataract.
There are different types of cataracts: age-related, congenital (present at birth), traumatic (a result of trauma), and secondary (a result of another medical condition).
Unlike many other eye diseases though, vision loss due to cataracts can be restored.
The exact cause of a cataract is unknown. Though 95% of cases are age-related cataracts, certain risk factors can increase your likelihood of developing a cataract. These include:
- Intense heat or long-term UV exposure
- Certain diseases such as diabetes
- Inflammation or infection of the eye
- Hereditary influences
- Long-term steroid use
- Eye injuries or diseases
- Lifestyle choices such as smoking
Signs and Symptoms
Cataracts usually form in both eyes, but not always at the same rate. They can develop slowly or quickly. Due to the unique nature of cataracts, you may not notice changes in your vision right away.
In general, cataracts do not cause pain, redness, or discharge. However, these changes in your vision may be a sign of cataract development:
- Double vision or blurred vision
- A sense of a film over your eyes
- Lights seeming too dim for reading or close work
- Changing eye prescriptions, though the change in prescription does not improve vision
- A milky or yellow spot on pupil
Any changes in vision should be reported to your optometrist immediately.
Treatment and Recovery
Over 3 million Americans undergo cataract-removal surgery annually making it one of the most common surgeries performed. It is a safe and effective form of treatment with a 95% success rate. Despite this prevalence, the treatment is fairly simple.
If prescription corrective eyewear is not effective, your doctor may recommend cataract surgery as a form of treatment. During this procedure, the surgeon removes the deteriorated lens and replaces it with an artificial lens commonly known as an intraocular lens or IOL.
These lenses are implanted inside the eye through a small incision and are designed to be permanent. They do not require any cleaning. Some IOLs may also help to correct nearsightedness or farsightedness so that you can see clearly without the need for prescription lenses. However, you may still need glasses to read close work properly.
It may take up to a month for your eye to fully heal. During this time, you should limit physical activity. Avoid lifting or deep bending as these actions increase eye pressure. Do not rub or press against your eye. Be mindful of using harsh products such as skincare products, soaps, and shampoo around your eye. Try to sleep on your back to avoid placing pressure on your eyes as you sleep.
Reduce Your Risk
There is no proven method of prevention against developing cataracts. However, there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to slow the progression of cataracts. Eating healthy foods that benefit eye health, regular exercise, and wearing protective eyewear are also important steps to reducing your risk.
For more information on cataracts and our treatment options, please contact St. Lucy’s Vision Center today.