Cataracts are largest cause of vision loss

A cataract is a butting of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil.

Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people older than 40 and are the principal cause of blindness. In fact, there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined, according to Prevent Blindness America.

Today, cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans 40 and older. And as the U.S. population ages, more than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts by 2020.

A cataract starts out small, and at first has little effect on your vision. You may notice that your vision is blurred a little, like looking through a butty piece of glass or viewing an impressionist painting. A cataract may make light from the sun or a lamp seem too bright or glaring. Or you may notice when you drive at night that the oncoming headlights cause more glare than before. Colors may not appear as bright as they once did.

Risk factors include:

• Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources.

• Diabetes.

• Hypertension.

• Obesity.

• Smoking.

• Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications.

• Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol.

• Previous eye injury or inflammation.

• Previous eye surgery.

• Hormone replacement therapy.

• Significant alcohol consumption.

• High myopia.

• Family history.

When your cataract is bothersome to your daily function, and new glasses can’t restore your vision, cataract surgery is recommended. Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States, with more than 3 million Americans undergoing cataract surgery each year. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision, somewhere from 20/20 to 20/40.

If you think you may be developing cataracts, see your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam to see if you might benefit from cataract surgery.

For more information about Merrimack Vision Care, call 424-0404 or visit merrimackvision.com.