Dr. James Tweeten: Protect your eyesight: Learn the facts about cataracts

GUEST OPINION: VISION

June 12, 2014 

Is your vision cloudy when you watch TV or do chores around the house? Do colors seem faded? Do bright lights appear to have a "halo" around them? Do you experience double vision even with glasses or contacts? If you experience any of these symptoms, you may have a cataract.

Cataracts affect an estimated 20.5 million people over 40 - about one in six Americans. By our 70th birthday, over half of us will have a cataract in at least one eye. They are the leading cause of vision loss among adults older than 55 - with more cases in the U.S. than glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined.

Think of your eye as a camera. To focus, it uses a lens - made up mostly of water and protein, arranged in a precise pattern to keep it clear and let light pass through it. But this protein can clump together over time and cloud a small area of the lens. This cloudy or blurry spot is called a cataract.

At first, the blurriness may affect such a small part of your eye that you don't even notice the difference. But it can grow over time, clouding more and more and distorting the light passing through the lens. Eventually, you can have trouble seeing as you go about your day. Left untreated, cataracts may impair or cause complete loss of vision.

To help you and your friends remember helpful cataract facts, we have developed an easy-to-follow infograph at www.YourSightMatters.com/cataractfacts.

Cataract removal is one of the most frequently performed operations in the United States. Usually an outpatient procedure, it is one of the safest and most effective types of surgery. The process is virtually painless and typically has a rapid recovery time. Many cataract patients wish they hadn't waited so long to have the surgery!

June is Cataract Awareness Month. As summer approaches, you can help slow the progression of cataracts by protecting your eyes from the sun. Wear sunglasses and brimmed hats to block harmful ultraviolet rays. Other healthy habits are important, too. Eat a diet rich in vitamins A, C and E. Don't smoke, and drink alcohol in moderation. Work with your primary care doctor to keep your weight down and manage high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. And most important - schedule an eye exam.

If you're older than 40, have noticed any changes in your vision, or haven't seen an eye doctor in awhile, find an eye professional near you at YourSightMatters.com. Don't put it off - it's your vision!

James Tweeten, M.D., is with Eagle Eye Surgery & Laser Center in Meridian.

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