Cataracts develop when the natural lens within the eye becomes thickened, hard, and cloudy and are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. They may begin to develop as early as age 40 and by age 80 over half of all Americans will have developed them or had surgery. Women are slightly more likely to develop cataracts at 61% with men at 39%. Visual impairment caused by cataracts is preventable and the Academy of American Ophthalmology launched a worldwide initiative to increase awareness and treatment for cataracts in 2020. Statistics show that over 3.8 million surgeries are performed in the US each year to remove cataracts making it one of the most common surgical procedures.
Having blurred vision at any distance, a cloudy or filmy look to things, dull or muted colors are all symptoms of potential cataracts. Many patients complain that things look dirty and they can’t seem to get them clean. Eventually the thickened lens will decrease the amount of light that reflects off the retina which is why people with cataracts have difficulty with night vision or driving in the dark. If left untreated they can eventually cause total vision loss. We don’t fully understand what causes cataracts but it is believed that long term exposure to the sun’s UV light plays a big part in their development. Smoking and alcohol use is also thought to be a possible cause.
Doctors recommend that people have their vision checked every 2 years from age 40-64 and annually after age 65. If you are diagnosed with cataracts speak with your ophthalmologist about the best option for you. There are multiple different kinds of replacement lens that can help correct other vision problems at the same time. Intra-ocular lens implants can eliminate the need for glasses after surgery which is why it’s important to discuss options with your surgeon. Undergoing cataract surgery decreases the likelihood of a hip fracture by 16% and the odds of being in a car crash by 13% due to the increase in vision. It is affordable and performed on an outpatient basis with a recovery period of a few days to several weeks.