These days it seems that there is a new health and fitness trend every time you turn around. We get bombarded everyday with articles about heart health, losing weight, exercising, pregnancy and even the health of our relationships. And while all of these health factors are essential to longevity, one health topic that is often overlooked is vision health.
Although our eyes are obviously essential to experiencing life as we know it, many individuals take their eyesight for granted and don’t know about the tips and habits they can use to preserve their eyesight. In fact, many individuals don’t know that cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. Understanding the facts about cataracts, including how to prevent their onset and seek treatment, is crucial to maintaining quality vision throughout a lifetime. That’s why June has been designated as Cataract Awareness Month by Prevent Blindness America.
It is estimated that half of all Americans will experience cataracts in some degree by age 80, and nearly 22.3 million Americans over age 40 suffer from cataracts. Throughout the month of June, physicians across the United States will be educating current and potential patients about prevention of cataracts and their options for cataract surgery. Below is some information:
Causes of Cataracts
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens that typically occurs as a result of aging, but can be brought on by a number of factors. As the eye’s lens becomes obstructed, it blocks the passage of light onto the retina, therefore decreasing the quality, or in severe cases completely diminishing, vision. While cataracts are most commonly associated with aging they can be brought on by a number of factors, including:
· Pre-existing vision conditions
· Long-term exposure to UV rays
· Certain diseases, such as diabetes
Although cataracts are not entirely preventable, there are many steps that individuals can take to prevent their onset. In addition to developing positive health habits such as not smoking and enjoying a diet high in Vitamin A, individuals should protect their eyes from harmful UV rays as much as possible. In addition, visiting an ophthalmologist regularly to monitor the progression of your visual health is an important way to prevent cataracts or treat them in their early stages.
The good news about cataracts is that they are treatable. The goal of cataract awareness month is to help individuals understand the symptoms of cataracts, such as blurred vision, trouble seeing in dim light and frequent prescription changes, as well as to educate them on their treatment options. Some people who develop mild cataracts may choose not to undergo treatment if the cataract does not interfere severely with their daily routine. Others, however, who experience serious vision complications due to cataracts can undergo cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery involves a relatively simple procedure in which a qualified cataract surgeon removes the natural lens of the eye and replaces it with an artificial lens. This artificial lens is free of any buildup material, and is therefore not susceptible to cataracts in the future.
Cataract surgery is performed in two separate procedures, with one eye treated at a time. Patients who make the decision to undergo cataract surgery often find that their quality of vision and quality of life returns to normal following the procedure. In addition, recent advancements in vision technology have made way for laser cataract surgery, a sophisticated procedure that increases the safety, precision and comfort of cataract surgery.
Many people experience a decline in their vision quality as they age, but are unsure if it can be reverted. Understanding the facts about cataracts and cataract surgery can help more individuals enjoy visual clarity throughout their lifetime, and can prevent blindness in millions of Americans. This cataract awareness month, be sure to learn all you can about this common condition so you can enjoy every detail of life for years to come.
About the Author: Dr. James Katz contributed this story about cataract awareness and eye health. Learn more about Dr. Katz by visiting the Midwest Center for Sight.
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