Are your eyes more sensitive to bright lights while driving your car at night? Do the colors of objects seem faded or yellowed? Are you experiencing blurry or double vision in one or both eyes?
If you answered yes to these questions, you may be one of about 24 million Americans aged 40 or older who has cataracts.
June is Cataract Awareness Month. A cataract is the clouding of the normally clear natural lens of your eye. Cataracts happen when proteins in your lens break down, preventing the light passing through the lens from focusing, which leads to objects around you looking hazy or blurry. Cataracts normally develop in everyone as we age.
Cataracts Impair Eyesight, Affect Lifestyle
Cataracts are easy to diagnose during a routine eye exam. Early symptoms of cataracts may be improved with new glasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses, but cataract surgery is the only effective treatment once glasses no longer help. If not treated, cataracts may cause near-complete loss of vision, but even at this level, vision is fully recoverable with surgery.
“Many adults in the U.S. have postponed their medical care and procedures throughout the pandemic, including elective surgeries,” said Indira Venkat, Vice President, Consumer Insights at AARP. “It’s important to keep in touch with your health care providers to maintain good health and wellbeing, especially for older adults who are more likely to have chronic health conditions” (Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation).
Impaired eyesight caused by cataracts can prevent you from living an active lifestyle and doing activities you love with family and friends. Patients with cataracts benefit from readily available, sight-restoring treatment.
IOLs Replace Cloudy Eye Lenses
The U.S. National Eye Institute reports that cataract surgery is one of the safest, most common and most effective surgical procedures performed in the United States. Approximately 4 million cataract surgeries are performed every year in the U.S. and nearly 28 million worldwide (Healio).
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that involves removing your cloudy lens from your eye and replacing it with an artificial lens called an IOL, or intraocular lens. An IOL is a clear, plastic lens that becomes a permanent part of your eye and requires no care.
You and your doctor decide which type of IOL is right for your visual needs and your lifestyle. Examples of IOLs include the following:
- Monofocal lenses: These offer vision at one distance only (far, intermediate or near). You may still need to wear glasses with these lenses. Medicare or health insurance usually covers the cost.
- Toric IOLs: These can be used to correct astigmatism. These lenses provide clear distance vision; however, you may still need glasses to read. An extra fee most likely will be added to the cost.
- Multifocal IOLs: These are designed to help you see near, far and intermediate with as little glasses or contact use as possible. These premium lenses cost more out of pocket but offer you the best chance to see without wearing glasses or contact lenses.
This outpatient surgery only takes a few hours from the time you arrive at your appointment until you are released to go home. The surgery itself generally takes less than 30 minutes, allowing you to return to your life quickly.
If you are experiencing vision problems and think you may have cataracts, don’t delay your care. To get an accurate diagnosis, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your ophthalmologist.