This June, we have brought awareness to Alzheimer’s disease and aphasia disorder. As we end the month, we’ll close on cataract awareness.
In the United States, more than 25 million Americans are estimated to have cataract. As the population in America continues to age, the number of cataract cases are projected to increase by 50 percent to 38.5 million by 2032. Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness among older adults in the United States. More than half of all Americans have cataracts by the time they are 80 years old.
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. The lens of the eye is located behind the pupil and the colored iris, and is normally transparent. The lens helps to focus images onto the retina – which transmits the images to the brain. Vision may become blurry or dim because the cataract stops light from properly passing through to the retina.
Your eye works like a camera. A camera needs a lens to focus an image. But when the lens is dirty or cloudy, the camera can’t take a good, clear picture. It’s the same with your eyes. Your eye lens focuses rays of light on the nerve tissue at the back of your eye (the retina). The retina then transmits a clear image to your brain. But when a cataract clouds your eye’s lens, light rays don’t pass through as well and the retina cannot transmit a good picture.
The exact cause of a cataract is unknown. Most often, a cataract is part of getting older. As you age, you are at greater risk of developing a cataract. There are also several possible risk factors for cataracts, such as:
- Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun
- Certain diseases, such as diabetes
- Inflammation in the eye
- Hereditary influences
- Events before birth, such as German measles in the mother
- Long-term steroid use
- Eye injuries
- Eye diseases
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
- You have blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, or the sense of a “film” over your eyes.
- Lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work, or you are “dazzled” by strong light.
- You change eyeglass prescriptions often and the change does not seem to help your vision.
- You may also be able to see the cataract in your eye. It may look like a milky or yellowish spot in your pupil.
Why do cataracts form?
Cataracts are probably caused by changes related to aging. Throughout our lives, our bodies replace old cells with new ones. As we grow older, the old cells in our eye’s lens build up and block light as it tries to pass through. The end result is cloudy vision.
Besides getting older, other factors may cause cataracts to form. Eye infections, some medicines (such as steroids), injuries or exposure to intense heat or radiation may cause cataracts. Too much exposure to non-visible sunlight (called UV or ultraviolet light) and various diseases, such as diabetes or metabolic disorders, may also contribute to cataracts forming.
Prevention and Low Vision Programs
The key to preventing vision loss is regular eye exams. If you are 65 or older, you should get a complete eye exam every one or two years, even if you have no problem seeing well. Be sure to ask your eye doctor for a dilated eye exam. Every year in the U.S., more than two million cataract surgeries are performed. Cataract surgeries are performed without complication in over 95% of cases.
Restore Outpatient vision rehabilitation can make a big difference to a person adjusting to vision loss and should be considered a key part of a patient’s overall care.
Low vision is more common as you get older because many of the diseases that cause vision problems are more common in older adults. Aging doesn’t cause low vision on its own. Eye and brain injuries and certain genetic disorders can also cause low vision, as mentioned above.
Many different eye conditions can cause low vision, but the most common causes are:
- Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
- Diabetic retinopathy (a condition that can cause vision loss in people with diabetes)
If your vision loss is getting in the way of everyday activities, ask your eye doctor about vision rehabilitation. A Restore Outpatient specialist can help you learn how to live with your vision loss.
This can include things like:
- Provide assessment and training in use of low vision tools such as magnifiers.
- Guidance for setting up your home so you can move around easily
- Sharing resources to help you cope with your vision loss
Restore Outpatient’s focus on Wellness facilitates a better quality of life for its clients. If you have any questions about vision rehabilitation and cataracts, contact us!
For more information regarding cataracts and Cataract Awareness Month, visit Prevent Blindness.