As birthdays accumulate so does our need for healthcare. Like joint pain and heart health, cataracts are the price we pay for getting older. Cataracts form when the normally transparent lens of the eye turns cloudy. At least three out of five people over age 60 will eventually develop them. Today, thanks to ongoing advances, cataract replacement surgery often gives people better vision than they’ve had in years.
Pike County Memorial Hospital with Prevent Blindness America educates the public about cataracts; June has been designated as Cataract Awareness Month. Unlike many eye diseases, vision loss due to cataract can be restored. Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed procedures in the United States and has a 95 percent success rate. A new study found that cataract surgery patients had a significantly reduced rate of hip fractures from falls, as well.
Cataract generally does not cause pain, redness or tears. However, these changes in your vision may be signs of cataract: Blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, the sense of a “film” over the eyes; Lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work, or you are “dazzled” by strong light; Changing eyeglass prescriptions often. The change may not seem to help your vision; or You may sometimes notice the cataract in your eye. It may look like a milky or yellowish spot in the pupil since the center of your eye is normally black.
No one knows for sure why the eye’s lens changes as we age, forming cataracts. The lens inside the eye works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina for clear vision. It also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away.
The lens is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract, and over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.
PCMH encourages the use of sunglasses that block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays when you are outdoors as a step in reducing the risk of cataracts. For more information about cataracts, contact Prevent Blindness America, the national non-profit group, through its dedicated web page at preventblindness.org/cataract, or via phone at (800) 331-2020 or PMCH at (573) 754-5531.