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Cataract Awareness Month (August)

August is National Cataract Awareness Month. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in individuals 55 or older. (National Eye Institute) Some risk factors dealing with cataracts are age, medical conditions such as diabetes, physical injuries, UV light, steroids, and smoking. (Eye Surgery Education) Smokers are twice as likely to develop cataracts compared to non smokers. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye. Some symptoms of cataracts are blurred vision, glare, and difficulty reading. The lens is the part of the eye which focuses light to give a clear image. Roughly 60% of people 65 or older have some degree of cataracts. Many individuals elect to have surgery to remove the cataracts from their eyes. You must go to an eye care professional for a check-up to see if you do have cataracts. If you would like more information, please visit Eye Care America.

Each year there are more than 1.5 million cataract surgeries performed in the United States alone (medicinenet.com). You can have cataracts in one eye or both; most commonly the cataracts develop in both eyes. Both eyes are exposed to the same environment throughout your life. There are three different types of surgery which can be performed. The most common method is called phacoemulsification; the surgeon makes a small incision in the surface of the eye then a probe with ultrasonic vibrations dissolves the cloudy lens, then an artificial lens is put into place. The next most common surgery is the extracapsular cataract surgery is for advanced cataracts so a larger incision is made, stitches are used, an artificial lens is inserted. Intracapsular surgery rarely used today, the surgeon removes both the lens and the capsule.

Once surgery occurs make sure to follow up with your healthcare provider, complications and infections could occur; although they are rare. Once surgery is complete it does not take long for the patient to recover and see much better than pre surgery. Many of the occurrences after surgery would be swelling, redness, inflammation. If any other side effects occur go directly to your healthcare provider. Complications occur in 1 in every 1,000 cases.

Although it is rare, children can develop cataracts. One out of every 250 children will develop cataracts (Cleveland Clinic). In newborns it is extremely important to have cataracts taken care of. If newborns have distorted vision in the first few days or weeks then the brain will make abnormal visual connections, this is called amblyopic. Without quick treatment children could develop permanent damage to their vision. Go to my.clevelandclinic.org for more information about children and cataracts. One of the huge issues with babies and cataracts is the fact that babies can't talk yet to let us know they have blurry vision.

If you know of anyone who could possibly have cataracts it is important to see a health care professional. Although cataracts are not usually dangerous to the overall health of the eye; by removing the problem the individual will be able to enjoy life to the fullest yet again. Keep up on your health.

Information provided by Brittany Burke Intern working with Dana Breeding, RN Health Educator from Community Wellness, at Augusta Health. To contact Dana Breeding related to the above information, please call (540) 332-4988 or (540) 932-4988.