Happy Cataracts Awareness Month! What You Need to Know

August is Cataracts Awareness Month. Here at Eyecare & Eyewear Optometry, our Carrollton eye doctors are celebrating by telling everyone we know everything we know about cataracts.

Cataracts — basically, when an eye’s lens gets clouded up — is a persistent menace to the optometry community (in fact, optometrists love spreading awareness about the condition so much that Cataract Awareness Month is also celebrated in June). And it’s a challenge about which we’re determined to spread awareness. Why? Just take a look at the stats:

  • More than 20 million Americans older than 40 years of age are currently suffering from cataracts.
  • That sizable chunk of the U.S. population soars, however, when you look at the elderly: almost 70 percent of Americans over the age of 75 are affected by cataracts.
  • The problem is growing: by 2020, more than 30 million Americans are expected to be suffering from cataracts.
  • Beyond the quality of life issues, the condition is expensive: altogether, Americans spend more than $7 billion each year treating cataracts.

The best (and cheapest) way to treat cataracts is to prevent them from becoming a severe problem in the first place. Early diagnosis and treatment both start with understanding the condition, though, so let’s take a look:

The causes:

Most cataracts fall under two basic causes:

1. Protein buildups on the eye.
2. General eye lens wear and tear.

Some cases, caused by factors like eye injuries, genetics, or diabetes — as well as age-related cataracts that develop simply from a sort of gradual “yellowing” or tinting of the eye lens — are difficult to prevent. Other cases, meanwhile, are caused by avoidable factors like smoking, steroid use, and UV rays from too much time spent sunbathing (wear thick sunglasses, please).

The effects:

The lens of your eye is both its first defense and first contact with outside light — a sort of regulator that carefully lets light in, bends it, and focuses it in a way that allows images to properly get passed onto the retina.

So guess what happens when the lens gets clouded up: Light can’t pass through clearly or evenly, causing vision to become blurry or dimmed. You find yourself straining to read, or suddenly getting headaches from bright, glaring light.

The Treatments:

The first step is to know whether or not you have cataracts. Early signs include blurry and double vision, unusual trouble reading in low light, yellow or milky spots on the pupil, or headaches and eye pain caused by bright lights. Schedule an appointment with us right away if you’re experiencing any of these issues.

The effects of cataracts can be alleviated by specialized eyeglasses, but unfortunately surgery is the only cure. Thankfully, cataract surgery is painless and easy. In fact, it’s the most common surgery performed each year across America — three million people will undergo the procedure in 2011 alone. Nearly 95 percent of such surgeries result in a full recovery.

In other words, there’s nothing to fear. Just make an eye exam appointment with one of our Carrollton optometrists today — the earlier you detect and treat cataracts, the easier it will be to restore the quality of life lost with deteriorating eyesight.