A cataract is a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes increasingly opaque, causing cloudy or blurred vision. June is Cataract Awareness Month and a time to know the facts behind cataracts and how to manage vision with a cataract. The National Eye Institute reports that by age 80, more than half of all Americans will have a cataract or have undergone cataract surgery.
Most cataracts form gradually, but will eventually affect one’s eyesight. Cataracts typically distort the light passing through the eye’s lens. Cloudy vision from cataracts can make it difficult to read, drive and manage everyday functions at work and around the home. Leisure activities that rely on close-up eyesight such as needlework and fine woodworking can become challenging. Seeing fading or yellowing colors and halos around lights are other signs of cataract impairment.
What can caregivers do to help a loved one with a cataract?
- Be sure seniors 60 and older have a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at least every two years. Adjusting the lens strength or shape of glasses and contact lenses can help with the vision limits of cataracts.
- Confirm that elders get regular medical checkups. Cataracts can form from illnesses such as diabetes or the long-term use of steroids. Surgery from glaucoma and other vision disorders can also cause cataracts.
- Restrict driving, particularly at night. Older adults with cataracts may find their night vision significantly reduced and should plan accordingly for safety on the road.
- Use non-glare lighting throughout the home. Minimize exposure to bright lamps and direct sunlight. Adjustable window blinds and shades help reduce sensitivity to light and glare.
- When outdoors, wear anti-glare, UV-protection sunglasses and a brimmed hat to block ultraviolet sunlight. Extended exposure to sunlight is linked to eye damage, including cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Maintain a healthy weight and diet. Obesity can heighten the risk for cataracts. Eat daily amounts of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants.
Promising research continues on how sunlight exposure, lifestyle and genetics affect the risk of a cataract. If you or your senior loved one is experiencing vision changes, consult with your eye care professional or medical doctor.
What tips can you offer on better managing life with a cataract?
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.