The American Academy of Ophthalmology dedicates each month to recognizing and raising awareness around one or more important eye health issues. In 2013, US nonprofit, Prevent Blindness officially declared June to be Cataract Awareness Month to educate the public on cataract’s causes, symptoms, preventions, and treatment.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the US and the world over. But if detected early, cataracts are easily treatable to prevent blindness. Despite this, there is still a lot of misinformation and anxiety surrounding cataract treatment and care options. Every June, Prevent Blindness and other like-minded corporate and nonprofit organizations try to change the public’s perception of cataracts and reach out to those who need treatment.
Prevent Blindness and Bausch + Lomb, a leading global eye health business, recently announced they would be joining forces to spread cataract awareness this June. During the announcement, Joe Gordon, U.S. president, Bausch + Lomb, said the company looked forward to working with Prevent Blindness in providing information to the people affected by cataracts and resources to support their care and treatment.
Throughout the month, Prevent Blindness and Bausch + Lomb will post content on their social media pages full of helpful information about cataract in general and cataract surgery. Bausch + Lomb has also vowed to donate $1 toward Prevent Blindness’ initiatives for every share or like of selected posts on their Facebook page.
The main goal of this partnership is to ensure that cataract patients get the help they need, with particular emphasis on surgical treatment.
But in the true spirit of Cataract Awareness Month, we want to do our part by teaching you some of the basics about this eye disease. Continue reading for a brief but informative overview of the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cataracts, including laser cataract surgery at nJoy Vision.
What Is a Cataract?
The vital parts of the eye include the lens, retina, and optic nerve. The lens is an elastic ellipsoid-shaped (elongated sphere) sack filled with a clear watery fluid known as aqueous humor. Its main function is to focus light onto the retina, which is then transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve and processed into images.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens caused by the clumping together of protein molecules in the aqueous humor. This prevents enough light from passing through the lens and onto the retina. Cataract formation usually begins slowly and eventually covers the entire lens of the eye until barely any light can get through. When that happens, the eye may lose sight completely.
Cataracts are a common eye problem that affects millions of people worldwide. The most recent data from the National Health Institute show that cataracts affect about 24.4 million Americans. The NIH also projects the number of cataract cases to rise in the coming years.
Early Symptoms of Cataracts
Most patients only realize they have a cataract when it has already covered most of the pupil. Cataracts develop gradually, usually in the span of several months or even years.
During this time, the patient may experience the following symptoms:
- Temporary or permanent vision blur or double vision
- Poor color perception
- Increased sensitivity to glare
- Trouble seeing at night or in dim light
- Seeing halos around bright lights
Risk Factors and Causes of Cataracts
Most cataracts develop as a result of aging or trauma. Above the age of 40, the proteins inside the lens naturally begin to break down and clump together into cataracts. Traumatic injury to the eye may cause damage to the lens, leading to the formation of a cataract.
Some diseases and medications such as glaucoma, diabetes, prednisone, and steroids are closely linked to what’s known as secondary cataracts. Also, excessive exposure to UV and other forms of radiation may trigger cataract development. And in some rare cases, infants are born with congenital cataracts or develop the condition within the first year.
Common risk factors associated with cataracts include:
- Old age
- Smoking and heavy alcohol use
- Family history of cataracts
- Past eye injuries, disease, or surgery
Cataracts are easily treatable, especially if detected early. But before any treatment can begin, an ophthalmologist must first diagnose the cataract.
The most popular cataract diagnosis test is a retinal exam. In this test, the eye doctor dilates the patient’s eyes with some eyedrops and looks through the widened pupil to examine the lens, retina, and optic nerve.
Other non-invasive tests such as the refraction test and split-lamp test can also reveal cataract formation.
When it comes to treatment, surgery is the easiest and most effective way to get rid of cataracts. Home remedies and other treatments such as prescription glasses and eye drops only cover up the symptoms without taking care of the cataract itself.
Cataract surgery is typically a quick, outpatient procedure that only takes 15-20 minutes. The surgeon simply removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with a clear artificial one. This might sound scary, but millions of cataract surgeries are performed in the U.S. every year, and the procedure has a proven track record at a 99% success rate.
There are three types of cataract surgery:
This procedure is also known as “small incision cataract surgery” or “phaco.” A small incision is made on the side of the cornea – the transparent dome-shaped membrane covering the pupil. The surgeon then inserts a small ultrasound emitter to soften and the lens, which is then removed through suction.
Extracapsular Cataract Extraction (ECCE)
During an ECCE procedure, the doctor makes a long cut on the side of the cornea and removes the lens, leaving the elastic capsule covering the lens.
Refractive Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery (ReLACS)
This is the most advanced method of removing cataracts and the procedure we perform at nJoy Vision.
During laser-assisted cataract surgery at nJoy Vision, our surgeons use the revolutionary CATATLYS® Precision Laser System and femtosecond laser technology to perform the most challenging steps of manual or traditional cataract surgery.
Together, these advanced laser technologies produce sophisticated 3D imaging of the eye, make precise corneal incisions, allow the surgeon to perform anterior capsulotomy and lens fragmentation with unparalleled accuracy and predictability.
In addition to removing cataracts, this technology introduces multiple options for vision correction using intraocular lens (IOL) implants that can eliminate the need for corrective glasses. But, depending on the type of IOL that is implanted, some patients may still need glasses after the procedure.
Our premium IOL options can be customized to suit different conditions and lifestyle needs. These options include Multifocal IOLs that correct both distance and near vision, Accommodating IOLs that allow the eye to “zoom focus” from near to far, and Toric IOLs that correct astigmatism and improve distance vision.
With laser cataract surgery, the surgical incision does not require any stitching and heals itself in a couple of days. In fact, some patients can see well through their new lenses just a few days after surgery, but full recovery usually takes a few weeks.
Cataracts are Treatable and Curable
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cataracts are responsible for 94 million cases of blindness and severe visual impairment worldwide. Sadly, many cataract patients are unaware of the treatment options available to them.
The main objective of Cataract Awareness Month is to motivate and empower those afflicted by this disease to come forward and get much-needed medical attention. That’s why Prevent Blindness, Bausch + Lomb, and other health and wellness organizations across the globe are trying to educate and support cataract patients.
With your participation and awareness, these initiatives and collaborations could help restore sight to millions of people affected by cataracts every year.