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Concerned about cataracts? Here’s what to know and how to treat them

June is Cataract Awareness Month

A woman's eye (Jan Krnc/Pexels stock image)

Did you know that cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss? It’s also the leading cause of blindness.

Today, more than 24 million Americans who are ages 40 and older are dealing with cataracts. That’s why we have a month dedicated to spreading awareness about cataracts, how to treat the problem, and share preventative steps patients can take to stop more people from going blind.

Below is a look at what you need to anticipate -- and how to prevent cataracts from damaging your vision. It’s vital to keep our eyes healthy, especially as we age. Here are some frequently asked questions about cataracts.

What are cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye. It is painless but can progressively cloud your lens more over time if left untreated. People with cataracts suffer with fuzzy vision due to the cloudiness, similar to attempting to make your way through fog. They also block light, making it harder to see clearly and at night. If left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness over time.

What causes cataracts?

Because cataracts happen in your eye’s lens, which sits behind the iris and pupil, it is arranged precisely to keep itself clear and allow light to pass through it. It works similarly to a camera lens as it focuses light into your retina, forming the images you see. As we age, the water and protein making up our lenses begin to clump together, causing the clouding. This then grows larger and cloudier over time, creating blurred vision. There are many different causes, including smoking and diabetes. But it can also be attributed to simply aging as our eyes go through a lot of use over our lifespans.

Can I prevent getting cataracts?

Cataracts cannot be prevented. But annual eye exams can give you knowledge of their forming. From there, your optometrist can help develop a treatment plan, so you can continue enjoying your uninterrupted vision.

How do you treat cataracts?

Even though you cannot prevent cataracts, they are relatively simple to treat. The solution is a surgery in which the surgeon removes the deteriorated lens and replaces it with a new, artificial lens called an intraocular lens. This is one of the most common surgeries in the United States, as more than 3 million Americans undergo it annually. It’s also astoundingly quick, only lasting about 20 minutes. Most patients are able to resume their normal routine with little downtime.

How safe is treatment?

As previously stated, more than 3 million Americans receive cataract surgery every year, making it one of the safest and most effective surgeries. It holds a success rate of 95%. Only a very small incision is made to replace the lens in an outpatient surgery center.

When should I start worrying about cataracts?

Cataracts can develop at any time. However, most people notice them coming in after turning 70, but they can start to develop 20 years prior. This is why it’s important to schedule regular appointments with your eye doctor to catch them early and begin your treatment.

What if I’m younger? Can cataracts still affect me?

While cataracts predominantly affect seniors, and most people will not display symptoms till over the age of 40, they can affect everyone, regardless of age. Things like eye injury, heredity, disease, and smoking can all cause cataracts to develop prematurely. That’s why it’s always important to stay on top of your health by scheduling annual visits to your eye doctor.

How Pharmacy Advantage helps

Pharmacy Advantage encourages everyone to schedule regular eye checkups with their optometrist to stay healthy. While most issues are treatable, you only get one pair of eyes, so it’s important to stay vigilant and healthy.