June is National Cataract Awareness Month
According to Prevent Blindness America, over 24 million Americans age 40 and up have cataracts and they are the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
The good news is that cataracts are treatable and the blindness often reversible. In fact, cataract surgery is one of the most frequently performed surgeries in the US and has a 95 percent success rate. Wow!
So, what is a cataract?
It is a clouding of the eye’s lens which blocks or alters the passage of light into the eye. There are two main types: congenital (childhood) and age-related cataracts. We will focus on the age-related cataracts in senior care.
What causes cataracts?
- Family History
- Smoking and second-hand smoke
- Too much exposure to bright sunlight over a long-time
- Previous eye inflammation
- Previous eye injury or surgery
- Exposure to lead
- Extended use of medications like corticosteroids, for example as used by people with asthma or chronic inflammations
What are the symptoms?
- Blurry, cloudy, or misty vision
- Vision worsens when lighting becomes dim
- Some describe it as similar to looking through "frosted" glass
- Vision includes small patches which blur parts of your field of vision
- Glasses need to be changed more often
- Eventually wearing glasses is no longer effective
- Reading becomes very difficult, and eventually impossible
- Vision may be affected by small spots, specks, or dots
- Glare sometimes appears when light is very bright
- Colors may appear less clear or faded
- In rare cases patients can see a halo around bright objects, such as car headlights or street lights
- Double vision in one eye, although this is rare
Just from the symptoms above it is clear quality of living with cataracts is a key issue for senior care. However, even more notable is a recent research study that found cataract surgery patients had a significantly reduced rate of hip fractures from falls. Since hip fractures are often the cause of extended nursing home admissions, preventing them can be critical for extending in-home senior care and it's associated lower cost.
For more information, see this great article by Medical News Today. And if in doubt about your own situation, see your optometrist or ophthalmologist today!