Helping You See Better: June is Cataract Awareness Month

Helping You See Better: June is Cataract Awareness Month

Presently, cataracts are considered the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.  24 million Americans, over the age of 40 are affected by cataracts.  This June, Optos joins Prevent Blindness America in observing Cataract Awareness Month to aid in the education surrounding cataracts, and what you should know.

What are Cataracts?

Inside our eyes, we have a natural lens. The lens refracts light rays that come into the eye to help us see. The lens should be clear, like the top lens in the illustration.
With the presence of cataracts, the lens has become cloudy, much like looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield. Things look blurry, hazy or less colorful with a cataract.

Vision changes you may notice if you have a cataract:

  • Having blurry vision
  • Seeing double
  • Extra sensitive to light
  • Having trouble seeing well at night, or needing more light while reading
  • Seeing bright colors as faded or yellow instead

What Causes Cataracts?

Exact causes of a cataract are unknown, most often they are a part of getting older.  There are some key possible risk factors that have been identified in those at risk, 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
  • Long-term steroid use
  • Eye injuries
  • Eye diseases
  • Smoking

There are three different types of cataracts, named according to their locations:

  • Nuclear cataracts grow in the nucleus (inner core) of the eye’s lens. This is the most common type of cataract associated with aging.
  • Cortical cataracts develop in the cortex (outer section of the lens).
  • Posterior subcapsular cataracts form toward the back of a cellophane-like capsule that surrounds the lens. These are most common in people who are diabetic, overweight or taking steroids.

Cataracts can also be classified by cause:

  • Age-related cataracts form as result of aging.
  • Congenital cataracts occur in babies who are born with cataracts as a result of an infection, injury or poor development before birth. They can also develop during childhood.
  • Secondary cataracts are a result of other medical conditions, such as diabetes, or exposure to toxic substances, certain drugs (such as corticosteroids or diuretics), ultraviolet light or radiation.
  • Traumatic cataracts develop as the result of an injury to the eye.

pre-surgical cataract exam; optomap imaging (color and sensory view) reveals early Diabetic Retinopathy evident as multiple dot hemorrhages

Cataracts usually form in both eyes, but not at the same rate. They can develop slowly or quickly, or progress to a certain point, then not get any worse. As a result, one may not notice substantial changes in their sight.   Sometimes they can significantly precede symptoms and can be so subtle as to go unnoticed without a comprehensive eye exam.

As the U.S. population ages, more than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts by the year 2020.  optomap technology is being increasingly utilized in cataract surgery clinics for immediate views of the retina.  optomap images have also proven useful in the process of education patients about their conditions.  The ultra-widefield view can be captured through problematic, hazy media, where white light has difficulty, revealing any retinal issues that might be a concern prior to surgery, as well as, following surgery. The ability to quickly and easily observe and document retinal health before and after cataract surgery provides both the patient and practitioner a tremendous peace of mind.

May is UV Awareness Month – Be Wise and Protect Your Eyes!

As summer draws near, most of us long for the glorious warmth of the sun and we dream about, and plan for, the recreation we will enjoy. Unfortunately, while awareness of the importance of sunscreen and UV protective clothing has increased, the impacts of all that fun-in-the-sun on the eyes is still often overlooked.  Most people do not realize that 20% of all cataracts are the result of UV ray exposure, and that number has been dramatically increasing in recent years.

But what is this invisible threat exactly?  And how does it impact us? Ultraviolet radiation is measured in nanometers (nm). It is categorized in three basic terms and classified by the strength of the UV ray:

  • UVC: These rays are below 280 nm. The upper atmosphere absorbs these so they do not reach us, therefore protection from these rays is not overly necessary.
  • UVB: These are between 315 – 380 nm. These manage to make it to the earth’s surface and are notorious for damaging sight. They can cause snow blindness, but are notably responsible for sunburn and several types of skin cancer. Research has shown that these rays are strongest during the summer and at higher altitudes.
  • UVA: These are the most dangerous being 315 – 380 nm. They are known for causing chronic eye damage. Studies have indicated that these rays get absorbed by the lenses of our eyes leading to damage of the retina. They contribute to the occurrence of cataracts, are also a major cause of aging and unfortunately can pass through clouds, glass, water and clothing.

source: http://mommymandy.com/uv-safety-for-young-eyes/

But what about Vitamin D?  A little sun exposure is healthy for us, right?  Vitamin D is essential to help your body absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Vitamin D is also beneficial for other important body functions and it has been shown to be essential to a healthy immune system.  However, just 5-15 minutes in the sun is enough to help stimulate the production of Vitamin D.

Prolonged UV exposure has numerous immediate and deleterious negative impacts. Many skin cancers can occur on the eyelids and external features of the eye.  Additionally, while ocular melanoma is rare it is the most common eye cancer in adults. Because of the increasing number of UV related cataracts and eye cancers; Prevent Blindness, and many other organizations, strongly recommend that everyone utilize UV Protection eyewear, not only those who engage in outdoor disciplines and recreation. It is recommended that sunglasses and UV treated daily wear should be 100% UV absorbing for UVA and UVB light.

When we are caught up in the delightful pursuits of summer – particularly exuberant children – we tend to overlook the simple proactive measures that we can take to protect against vision loss and UV related eye damage and even life threatening ocular cancers.  In addition to taking a few extra moments to protect yourself and your loved ones before rushing out into the sunshine, it is imperative that people take the time for annual eye exams. An optomap screening is an excellent, expedient way to get a comprehensive view of the retina and to gain essential information about ones ocular health. optomap is the only proven, clinically-validated, ultra-widefield retinal image that can capture 82% or 200⁰ of the retina, which can reveal incredibly subtle changes from the central pole to the far periphery of the retina in a single capture – and in a fraction of a second – so you can get out there (well-protected, of course) and enjoy that summer sun.

Visit our website to learn how optomap can assist your local eyecare professional in protecting your sight and general health.