June is Cataract Awareness Month.  There are many conditions that affect the eyes, and cataract is one that can cause reversible vision loss.  We are all born with clear lenses.  Over time the lens can become cloudy, which is known as cataracts.  This is a normal part of aging.  By the age of 80 about 65% of the population will have cataracts.

While cataracts are a normal part of aging, there are certain factors that increase a person's chances of developing cataracts.  There are certain conditions that increase the risk of cataracts, the most prevalent being diabetes.  Sun exposure is another risk factor in developing early-onset cataracts.  Trauma to the eyes can also cause cataracts at any age.  Even though it's more common to have cataract surgery at an older age, any of these conditions can cause cataracts at any age and surgery may be necessary to improve vision.

Cataracts is a progressive condition, such that the symptoms are not as noticeable at first and they get worse over time.  The patient may notice blurred vision and haziness, especially at night.  Some of the other symptoms include halos around lights, and colors look faded and not as bright as they used to.  As the cataracts become more dense, the patient notices blurred vision even during daytime and they have more frequent changes in their glasses prescription.  They can be evaluated by an eye doctor to check how severe the cataract is.  Once it's determined that the poor vision caused by the cataracts is reducing the patient's quality of life, cataract surgery is recommended.

Cataract surgery is one of the most frequently performed outpatient procedures.  Once the patient and surgeon have decided the time has come for cataract surgery, the surgeon will determine what is the best lens replacement option for the patient based on their prescription and visual needs.  Then it is determined which eye will be operated on first, which is usually the worst seeing eye.  The patient will be put on several drops to reduce the risk of an infection and reduce inflammation in the eye from the surgery.  They are seen fairly frequently by the optometrist or ophthalmologist during the recovery period to make sure there are no complications.

As mentioned before cataracts are a normal part of aging, however there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of getting early-onset cataracts.  Wearing sunglasses is the single-most effective action against getting cataracts.  The UV rays from the sun are harmful to the lens and sunglasses will help protect against that.  Studies have also shown that diets high in antioxidants can help against cataracts.  Also, if you are a current smoker, quitting will help with cataracts.  Following these simple guidelines should keep you cataract free well into your 70's and 80's.

If you have any concerns about your eyesight or have been noticing any changes to your vision make an appointment to see our optometrist in Ballston, Arlington.