June is Cataract Awareness Month, so there’s no better time to get the facts about cataracts and how to treat them. But first things first. What, exactly, is a ‘cataract?’

A cataract is a cloud that forms over the normally clear lens of your eye, preventing light and images from reaching the retina. It’s often describe as looking out of a fogged-up or frosted window. Over time, cataracts make it difficult to read, drive (especially at night) or even see the expression on someone’s face. The good news is, you can take steps to help protect your eyes and improve your eyesight. Here are some facts to help you take control of your vision. 

1. Aging isn’t the only risk factor for cataracts

Approximately one in six Americans 40 and older will develop a cataract. By age 80, more than 50% will have a cataract. While 95% of cataracts are age-related (usually after age 40), other risk factors include:

  • Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun (so don’t forget your UV sunglasses). 
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes and obesity.
  • Hereditary influences.
  • Long-term steroid use.
  • Eye diseases and injuries.
  • Smoking.

2. Cataracts can affect people differently

Everyone who gets a cataract experiences it differently. For example, people with cataracts at the outer edge of their lens may not see a difference in their vision. Others who have a cataract at the center of the lens, often notice a significant impairment. 

3. Many people who have a cataract don’t realize it

Because cataracts typically form over a long period of time, many people don’t realize they have them. That’s why it’s important to watch for common symptoms like these:

  • Blurry or foggy vision.
  • Colors appear dull or washed out.
  • Poor night vision.
  • Starbursts or halos appear around lights.
  • Sensitivity to sunlight or bright lights.
  • Needing more light to read.
  • The feeling of having a film over your eye(s).
  • Your glasses don’t seem to work.

4. Cataracts are the most frequent cause of preventable blindness 

Although cataracts are the world’s leading cause of vision loss, it is an eye disease that can be treated with cataract surgery. In fact, more than 2 million cataract surgeries are performed in the U.S. every year. 

5. You can choose how you want to see   

During cataract surgery, the clouded lens is replaced with a new, artificial interocular (IO) lens. There are different types of IO lenses – each with different benefits. For example, a “standard” mono-vision lens corrects for either near or far distances, while a trifocal lens can correct vision for near, far and intermediate distances. 

6. Eye exams can help detect cataracts early

The key to preventing vision loss from cataracts is regular eye exams – even if you have no problem seeing well. Most eye doctors suggest considering cataract surgery when your cataracts begin to affect your quality of life or interfere with your ability to perform normal daily activities, like reading or driving at night.

7. Cataract surgery is now available at RCH 

Dr. Richard Miller, a board-certified ophthalmologist and fellowship-trained corneal specialist, now provides cataract surgery outreach at Rochelle Community Hospital. Dr. Miller has extensive experience treating cataracts with advanced technology. In fact, he has done more than 3,000 Advanced Technology lens implants – far more than any other surgeon in the area.