June is Cataract Awareness Month and in this episode of Health Happens, our weekly Facebook Live show, we talked with Bill Richheimer, MD, an ophthalmologist from the Mile High Eye Institute, about what cataracts are, how they’re treated and if you can prevent them.
According to Dr. Richheimer, cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye, which prevents the passage of light into the eye. At first, the cloudiness in your vision caused by a cataract may affect only a small part of the eye’s lens and you may be unaware of any vision loss. As the cataract grows larger, it clouds more of your lens and distorts the light passing through the lens. This may lead to more noticeable symptoms.
He says that most people will develop cataracts. Many do not show symptoms of cataracts until at least the age of 40, but cataracts can also affect young adults or even children. Heredity, disease, eye injury and smoking are all factors that can cause cataracts to develop at an earlier age.
In terms of prevention, there is not a proven way to prevent cataracts when it is age-related. However, to prevent early-onset cataracts, choosing a healthy lifestyle can slow the progression. Other ways to delay the progression of cataracts include; avoiding smoking, reducing exposure to UV rays, eating healthy foods, and wearing proper eye protection to prevent eye injury.
It is important to regularly see your eye doctor. Eye doctors can diagnose cataracts with a general eye exam. Your eye doctor will test your vision and examine your eyes to look for any problems with the lens and other parts of the eye.
If you are diagnosed with cataracts, there are treatments available. According to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery each year, with an overall success rate of 98 percent or higher. Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries and the procedure can be completed in about 15 minutes in an outpatient surgery center. If left untreated, cataracts will continue to become worse over time, causing vision loss. Many people become legally blind from untreated cataracts, and cataracts can even cause total blindness if left untreated for long periods.
To watch the full Health Happens episode on cataracts, click here.
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