When we think about taking care of our bodies, we normally think about the big things like heart, skin, brain, or bones, but we often forget about one important thing – or should I say two: the eyes. It’s easy to take the ability to see for granted but did you know that cataracts account for over half of the world’s blindness? The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that cataracts affect over 20 million people worldwide.
What exactly are cataracts?
There’s many different important parts of the eye, but let’s focus on two right now: the retina and the lens. The retina is the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye. The lens is the clear part at the front of the eye that helps focus light on the retina. A cataract is defined as clouding of the lens. Depending on where the clouding starts, it may affect vision sooner or later in different people.
Cataracts are most commonly related to age, in particular people over age 40. In rare instances, babies can be born with cataracts or they can develop after eye injuries. While cataracts can occur in either eye, it cannot spread from eye to eye. The most common symptoms of cataracts include blurry vision, faded colors, sensitivity to light, or double vision. If you’re experiencing any of these, see your eye care professional, as most of these can be symptoms of other eye problems too.
Are there treatment options?
In the early stages of cataracts, simply new glasses or prescription sunglasses can help improve vision. If those don’t help or if your eye care professional thinks the cataract is causing other issues, then the cataract can be removed during surgery.
Even though surgery sounds scary, it is very common and over 90% of people report having better vision afterwards.
How can you prevent cataracts?
Of course, the easiest way of avoiding surgery is trying to avoid cataracts all together! The Mayo Clinic recommends:
- Having regular eye exams
- Quit smoking
- Avoiding excessive alcohol use
- Wearing sunglasses to block ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Managing other health issues like diabetes
- And of course, eating healthy
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