Cataract Awareness Month: Prevent Blindness
Did you know that cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, and it is the leading cause of blindness in the world? The more you know about cataracts, the better able you are to protect your eyes now and prevent vision problems in the future.
What is a cataract?
Cataracts form when the proteins in the lens of your eye group together, making your lens cloudy. Your lens is made up of water and proteins. Normally, the proteins line up in a particular way so that your lens is clear, and light can pass through easily. If the proteins in your lens clump together, the lens gets cloudy, like looking through a frosted window. The lens may also develop a brown or yellow tint, which can change how you see colors.
Most cataracts are age-related — they happen because of normal changes in your eyes as you get older. But you can get cataracts for other reasons like after an eye injury or after surgery for another eye problem.
- blurry vision
- trouble seeing at night
- seeing colors as faded
- increased sensitivity to glare
- halos surrounding lights
- double vision in the affected eye
Your eye doctor will check for cataracts as part of your dilated eye exam. The exam is painless and straightforward — your doctor will give you some eye drops to dilate (widen) your pupil and then check your eyes for cataracts and other eye problems.
Surgery is recommended when cataracts prevent you from going about your daily activities, such as reading or driving. If you’re unable or uninterested in surgery, your doctor may be able to help you manage your symptoms with stronger eyeglasses, magnifying lenses, or sunglasses with an anti-glare coating.
To reduce your risk of developing cataracts:
- Protect your eyes from UVB rays by wearing sunglasses outside
- Stop smoking
- Eat fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Keep diabetes and other medical conditions in check
- Even if your vision seems clear and healthy, make it a priority to schedule routine eye exams. Annual visits allow your eye care professional to look for signs of cataracts and other vision disorders.