Here in the Northern Hemisphere, June is the first month of summer. It’s a time we focus on gardens, the beach and time away from work or school. When thinking of the sun most of us want to protect our skin, but UV rays can also impact your risk for cataracts. Spreading awareness of information like this is one of the reasons why June is designated as Cataract Awareness Month.
In recognition of this month we hosted an online chat where many of our social media subscribers and webs visitors were able to submit questions that were answered by our Chief Instructor, Dr. Daniel Hutter.
To begin, let’s start off with some general facts about cataracts:
- 3 MILLION cataract surgeries are performed every year in the United States.1
- Cataracts affect nearly 22 MILLION Americans age 40 and older.2
- By age 80, more than HALF of all Americans will have cataracts.3
- Globally, 20 million people are BLIND because of cataracts.4
- Cataracts are the LEADING cause of vision loss worldwide.5
Community health workers in Lima, Peru learn how to screen for cataracts.
Now for some of the answers provided by Dr. Hutter:
- For someone who is visually impaired due or blind due to cataracts, cataract surgery may also correct visual acuity issues like nearsightedness and farsightedness due to the replacement of the natural lens. When the eye’s lens is replaced with the new artificial one, they can be fitted similar to contact lens possibly correcting some visual acuity issues.
- While cataracts are usually caused by a build-up of protein due to aging, they can also develop because of other health issues or be present at birth. Diabetes has an impact on the eyes. Children can be born with cataracts because of heredity predispositions or inadequate prenatal care. Medications like steroids can induce cataracts. Sometimes a traumatic injury to the head or eye can lead to their development of a cataract.
- It’s important to correct issues with sight in children when they are still young. The first few years of life is when the brain develops its ability to process signals from the eye. If the visual cortex does not evolve in the usual way, it may not be able to recover these capabilities later on.
- Cataracts cannot come back. When the natural lens is removed during cataract surgery it is replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL) made from an acrylic that can never cloud. Over time, the “sack” that held the original lens and now holds the artificial one, can become cloudy. The result may look like a cataract to the person effected, but it’s not really a cataract. The good news is that this condition can be treated through a quick procedure using a laser.
You can read a full transcript of Dr. Hutter's "Ask Me Anything" about Cataracts here.
Dr. Daniel Hutter participated in this session from Mumbai, India where he is developing our training program. It was great to chat with him online and a special thanks to him for his time.
Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more opportunities to engage with HelpMeSee representatives.
1 My Eyes (AARP)
2 American Academy of Ophthalmology
3 National Eye Institute
4 World Health Organization
5 American Academy of Ophthalmology