Imagine you’re looking through a camera but there’s a film on the lens keeping light from coming in and you from seeing out. That’s what seeing is like for many older adults who suffer from cataracts. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cataracts are the leading cause of visual loss in Americans 65 and older. The month of August is National Cataract Awareness Month, so read on to learn how to recognize the symptoms of cataracts, find treatment for yourself or others, and raise awareness of this treatable eye condition.
What are cataracts?
A cataract is a build up of proteins on the lens causing a clouding effect. They start small and develop slowly which is why so many sufferers are sixty and above, however they can develop at any age.
What are the symptoms?
- Halos around headlights at night
- Blurred vision
- Colors appear faded
- Double vision
What are the risk factors?
In 2009, researchers identified several gene mutations associated with age-related cataracts. But family history is just one of the risk factors. If you have diabetes, smoke, experience extensive exposure to sunlight, have had serious eye injury, or take steroids, you’re at an increased risk. You can reduce your risk of getting cataracts by protecting your eyes from UV rays. A study published in Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science suggested UV-absorbing contact lenses may be effective in preventing damage from the sun. CooperVision makes several UV-blocking contact lenses including the entire Avaira Family of lenses. However, contacts do not provide the same protection as UV-absorbing sunglasses so both are recommended for contact lens wearers.
What are the treatments?
Unlike some age-related eye conditions, cataracts are thankfully treatable. A relatively simple outpatient surgery can break up the cataract and restore clear vision. A healthy diet that is rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin may help in the prevention of cataracts as well.
Cataracts affect millions of older Americans, many of which have trouble finding help for themselves.The American Academy of Opthalmology sponsors awareness sessions and Information workshops in conjunction with Cataract Awareness Month. Their public-service program – EyeCare America– encourages people to call the Seniors EyeCare Program which facilitates access to eye exams and up to one year of eye care at no out-or-pocket expense to qualifying seniors. To see if you or a loved one, 65 and older, is eligible visit www.eyecareamerica.org.