All About Vision points out that cataracts are one of the leading causes of vision loss in the world. Image via AllAboutVision.

“Having the surgery was life-changing. I can see everything from the time on my alarm clock to a bird’s nest in a tree hundreds of feet away without glasses. It’s the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.” At age 49, Michael Sargent’s vision had become so impaired by cataracts that he couldn’t distinguish shapes or colors without his glasses on, even if objects were right in front of him. His ophthalmologist recommended cataract surgery and the results were life-changing. Throughout June, Prevent Blindness and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are among the many eyecare organizations, practitioners and groups making a major push to educate the public about the detection and treatment of cataracts.

Approximately 25 million Americans have cataracts, which causes cloudy, blurry or dim vision and often develops with advancing age. As everyone grows older, the lenses of their eyes thicken and become cloudier. Eventually, they may find it more difficult to read street signs. Colors may seem dull. These symptoms may signal cataracts, which affect about 70 percent of people by age 75.

Fortunately, cataracts can be corrected with surgery, as was the case for Michael Sargent. Ophthalmologists who specialize in medical and surgical eyecare perform around three million cataract surgeries each year to restore vision to those patients.

You can get an idea of what someone with cataracts might experience with this cataract vision simulator from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Here are few facts about cataracts from the AAO:

● Age isn’t the only risk factor for cataracts. Though most everyone will develop cataracts with age, recent studies show that lifestyle and behavior can influence when and how severely you develop cataracts. Diabetes, extensive exposure to sunlight, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and certain ethnicities have all been linked to increased risk of cataracts. Eye injuries, prior eye surgery and long-term use of steroid medication can also result in cataracts.

● Cataracts cannot be prevented, but you can lower your risk. Wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and brimmed hats when outside can help. Several studies suggest that eating more vitamin C-rich foods may delay how fast cataracts form. Also, avoid smoking cigarettes, which have been shown to increase the risk of cataract development.

● Surgery may help improve more than just your vision. During the procedure, the natural clouded lens is replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens, which should improve your vision significantly. Patients have a variety of lenses to choose from, each with different benefits. Studies have shown that cataract surgery can improve quality of life and reduce the risk of falling.

Prevent Blindness, the nation’s leading nonprofit eye health and safety organization, has declared June as Cataract Awareness Month to educate the public on risk factors, symptoms, types of cataract, and cataract surgery. According to Prevent Blindness, there are several possible risk factors for cataracts, such as:

● Age
● Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun
● Certain diseases, such as diabetes
● Inflammation in the eye
● Hereditary influences
● Events before birth, such as German measles in the mother
● Long-term steroid use
● Eye injuries
● Eye diseases
● Smoking

Although rare, cataract may also occur in children, also known as “pediatric cataract.” Prevent Blindness has declared 2022 as the Year of Children’s Vision, to raise awareness and education of children’s vision and eye health issues. According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS), approximately three out of 10,000 children have a cataract. Pediatric cataracts often occur because of abnormal lens development during pregnancy.

Cataracts can also result from genetic or eye structural problems, they can run in families, be caused by infections, or they can occur spontaneously without a known cause. Lens malformations that occur in conjunction with medical problems are often the result of a genetic or metabolic problem. These cataracts may be present at birth or may develop during childhood.

For some adults or children with cataract, surgery may be recommended by an eye doctor. The NEI states that cataract surgery is one of the most common operations in the U.S. And, 9 out of 10 people who get cataract surgery can see better afterward with most people being completely healed 8 weeks after their surgery.

For those in need of financial assistance, Mission Cataract USA, coordinated by the Volunteer Eye Surgeon’s Association, provides free cataract surgery to people of all ages who have no Medicare, Medicaid, third party insurance or any other means to pay for needed cataract surgery. EyeCare America, from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, offers the “Seniors Program” that connects eligible seniors 65 and older with local volunteer ophthalmologists who provide a medical eye exam often at no out-of-pocket cost, and up to one year of follow-up care for any condition diagnosed during the initial exam, for the physician services.

“Cataract is very common and affects more people than any other eye disease,” said Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “The good news is that vision loss from cataract can be restored with treatment. We encourage everyone to learn the facts about cataract and the steps that can be taken to see clearly.”

Here’s a look at what other eyecare practices and organizations are doing to get the word out about cataracts and raise awareness for treatments and lifestyle changes.

RxSight, which specializes in adjustable intraocular technology, is encouraging people to tune in during the month of June to learn more about how the company is leading the way of adjustability for physicians and patients everywhere. Image via RxSight on Instagram.

The Mann Eye Institute, with locations in Austin and Houston, Texas, is offering free cataract screenings in honor of Cataract Awareness Month. Image via manneyeinst on Instagram.

Cypress Eye Center in Abuja, Nigeria is encouraging people to join them live on YouTube on Monday, June 6 for a live Q/A session with their doctors to learn more about the treatment and management of cataracts. Image via cypresseyecenta on Instagram.

An infographic from World Council of Optometry highlights two of the most prevalent risk factors of age-related cataracts—smoking and diabetes. Image via worldcouncilopt on Instagram.

Prevent Blindness points out that the risk of cataract is higher for those who have family members with the disease. Image via PBA_savingsight on Instagram.

Eschenbach Optik is reminding people that they can reduce the risk of developing cataracts by wearing UV blocking sunglasses. Image via EschenbachOptik on Instagram.

Advanced Vision Clinic in Oakdale, Minnesota points out that there are more than 25.7 million Americans age 40 and older living with cataracts. Image via AdvVisionClinic on Instagram.