August is Cataract Awareness Month, making it the ideal time to learn more about this ailment and how to protect yourself from its debilitating effects. A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens, a light-sensitive tissue that helps focus an image on the retina, which results in distorted or blurred images. If left untreated, cataracts not only impair your vision, they may even cause blindness. Cataract development is part of the normal aging process, though there are other health conditions and lifestyle factors that may result in cataracts at a younger age, such as family history, radiation, high blood pressure and obesity. One in six Americans over the age of 40 is affected by cataracts. By age 75, roughly 70 percent of people will have cataracts.
Getting your vision checked out is about more than just seeing clearly; it is about improving your life. The hazy, cloudy or blurred vision that might result from cataracts can make it hard to see signs, traffic, people and even movies. Halos around bright lights are a common symptom of cataracts, making night driving nearly impossible. Cataracts are even the most frequent culprit in severe fractures from falls or accidents. Ultimately, scheduling an appointment with a licensed eye doctor is about retaining your independence and staying healthy.
Cataract surgery has become an easy treatment option for most patients, but many fear the worst. From start to finish, the entire process usually takes no more than two hours, while the actual procedure lasts only 15-20 minutes. One of the most common reactions I hear post-surgery is, “I wish I would have done this sooner.” It is a nearly pain-free process and can even reduce a patient’s dependence on glasses. In fact, it’s one of the most common surgeries performed in the country. If you are experiencing problems with your vision, now is the time to be proactive. You can start by learning more about cataracts and other eye conditions and treatment options and talk to your doctor about scheduling an eye exam.