Cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and there are more than 24 million Americans age 40 and older who have cataract in the United States alone, according to the Vision Problems in the U.S. report from Prevent Blindness. Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye.
The recent “Cost of Vision Problems: The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States” report found that at $10.7 billion, cataract is the second costliest vision disorder (behind refractive error) and the most expensive medical diagnosis. Direct costs include medical costs for diagnosed disorders, medical costs attributable to low vision, medical vision aids, vision assistive devices and adaptations, and direct services including special education and assistance programs.
Prevent Blindness has declared June as Cataract Awareness Month to educate the public on cataract, risk factors, symptoms and treatment options, including surgery. The exact cause of a cataract is unknown. Most often, a cataract is part of getting older. With age comes a greater risk of developing a cataract. There are also several possible risk factors for cataracts, such as:
- 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
“The best thing we can do to protect our vision is to get regular eye exams,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “We can also save our vision by maintaining healthy lifestyles like eating leafy green vegetables, exercising and quitting smoking. All we do to benefit our overall health can benefit our eyes as well!”
For free information on cataract, please call Prevent Blindness at (800) 331-2020 or visit the Prevent Blindness website at preventblindness.org/cataract. For information on insurance benefits, including Medicare coverage, free facts can be found at http://www.preventblindness.org/health-insurance-and-your-eyes.