National Cataract Awareness Month: An FAQ

It’s one of the best times of the year. In just a few weeks, we’ll be celebrating National Cataract Awareness Month in the best ways we know how. Cake? Balloons? Eye-shaped piñatas?

Actually, our Carrollton optometrists will really just celebrate the same way they do every month — through dedication to preventing and treating cataracts.

Our goals are simple:

  • Keep friends and patients informed about cataracts.
  • Teach healthy habits that can help block cataract formation.
  • Diagnose and treat cataracts in their early stages.

You might be surprised by the number of people affected by cataracts in the United States alone. According to Prevent Blindness America, nearly 20.5 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from cataracts, and close to 70 percent of all Americans will be affected by cataracts by the time they reach age 75. By 2020, more than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts, which will cost more than $7 billion each year to treat.

Let’s take a look (er, no pun intended) at what do you need to know to save your eyes — and your wallet — from cataracts:

What are cataracts, anyway?

A cataract is, simply put, a cloud over the eye’s lens that can form either from clumps of protein that build up on the eye’s surface, or from the normal wear and tear on the lens over a lifespan.

Your lenses affect the quality of your vision by controlling how light passes into your inner-eyes and by pulling images into focus. A cataract causes your vision to become blurry, cloudy, or dim by obstructing the light filtering through your eye.

national cataract awareness month - carrollton

How do cataracts form in the first place?

Some causes of cataracts are unavoidable — eye injuries, diabetes, and family history are some of the most common examples. Age-related cataracts can fall in that category too: they can develop from lens discoloration, which is the gradual yellowing or tinting of the lens, or from protein buildup on the lens.

But there are some lifestyle habits that can contribute to cataract formation that people can avoid, like smoking, steroid use, and overexposure to UV rays via tanning beds or the sun.

How can I tell if I have cataracts?

Cataract symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of most standard ocular issues, and can include blurry or double vision, the dimming of otherwise clear vision, or milky or yellow spots in your pupils. If rooms seem darker than normal, if you notice a significant drop in your night vision, or if bright lights start to cause headaches or eye pain, you could have cataracts.

Since cataract symptoms can also be associated with other vision problems, make sure you schedule an appointment for a Carrollton eye exam with us if you start to notice something wrong with your eyesight. Getting a quick and accurate diagnosis is the key to receiving effective treatment.

What is the treatment for cataracts?

Certain types of eyeglasses can help treat the symptoms of early cataracts, including those in our Carrollton Eyeglasses collections, but cataracts can only be cured through surgery. If you are diagnosed with cataracts, our doctors will discuss a variety of options with you and explain the newest advances available in cataract surgery, including the use of multifocal IOLs (Lens Implants to replace your natural lens), which not only improve your vision but can also eliminate the need for eyeglasses after surgery.

The word “surgery” usually makes people nervous. But cataract surgery is the most common type of surgery performed in the United States. In fact, nearly three million Americans underwent cataract surgery in 2011. With so much practice, eye surgeons have gotten pretty good at it — cataract surgery currently has a 95 percent success rate, restoring the ability to see to a huge number of patients.

During cataract surgery, the eye surgeon replaces the clouded lens with an artificial lens. Although there is a chance that corrective lenses will be needed after surgery, cataracts usually develop slowly and early detection can make full recovery more likely. Regular check-ups and screenings are an important part of maintaining your visual health.