Imagine seeing life through a fogged-up window or mirror. Your loved ones or pets appear blurry. For people who have cataracts, this is a daily reality. Cataracts are one of the leading causes of vision loss in the United States. There are more than 24 million Americans ages 40+ who have the condition, according to Prevent Blindness America.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. Unlike many eye diseases, vision loss due to cataract can be restored. Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed procedures and has a 95 percent success rate. Additionally, new research finds that patients who have restored vision because of cataract surgery had a significantly reduced rate of hip fractures from falls[i].
Symptoms of cataracts include blurry or double vision, a strong glare, or difficulty seeing at night. Adult cataracts develop gradually, and early diagnosis is important for maintaining good eye heath. Mild clouding of the lens often occurs after age 60 with few vision problems. However, by age 75, most people with cataracts have symptoms that do affect their vision.
Visual problems that may be associated with cataracts include:
- Sensitivity to glare
- Cloudy, fuzzy, foggy, or filmy vision
- Difficulty seeing at night or in dim light
- Double vision
- Loss of color intensity
- Problems seeing shapes against a background or the difference between shades of colors
- Seeing halos around lights
The risk of cataracts increases as a person ages. Other risk factors include:
- Certain diseases, such as diabetes
- Personal behavior, such as smoking and alcohol use
- The environment, such as prolonged exposure to sunlight
What can I do protect my vision?
Regularly wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight can help delay cataracts. Researchers also believe good nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related cataracts. Recommended foods include green leafy vegetables, fruit, and other foods with antioxidants.
If you are ages 60 or older, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataracts, your eye care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders. Early treatment for many eye diseases may save your sight.
Additionally, in some cases, cataract surgery is not an option or must be delayed because of other health circumstances. To improve your sight, low vision devices may help to enhance contrast, control glare, and magnify objects using various tools to improve your quality of life.