Did you know that 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts, one of the most curable causes of vision loss?
To recognize Cataract Awareness Month in August, local Cataract and LASIK Specialist Jonathan M. Frantz, MD, FACS, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and ophthalmologists across the country want to debunk the myths about cataracts and remind people they don’t have to live with vision loss from cataracts.
A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s normally clear lens, blocking the passage of light needed for vision. They form slowly and cause no pain. Some stay small and hardly affect vision, but if the cataract does grow and begin to affect your vision, it can usually be removed with surgery.
“Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide; however, in most cases, vision loss from cataracts is reversible,” said Dr. Frantz. “New techniques developed over the past decade have made cataract surgery one of the safest and most successful procedures available in terms of restoring quality of life to patients.” Each year there are more than 1.6 million of these delicate eye surgeries performed in the United States.
“There are no drugs or exercises that will make a cataract disappear, and contrary to popular belief, cataracts are not removed using lasers. Lasers are used in follow-up procedures, if needed. Cataract surgery is most often done as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia,” says Dr. Frantz. “The cloudy natural lens can be replaced with an artificial lens to give the eye proper focusing power. In most cases, the improvement in the patient’s vision is profound.”
So how do you know if you have a cataract? Dr. Frantz explains: “Some people notice a gradual painless blurring of vision, double vision in one eye or fading or yellowing of colors. When older patients mention sensitivity to glare and/or bright light or trouble driving at night, it may be caused by cataracts. Or, if a patient needs frequent changes to his or her glasses or contact lens prescriptions, I’ll evaluate him or her for a cataract.”
Dr. Frantz wants to dispel the notion that a cataract has to be “ripe” before it’s removed. “That’s just not true. The best time to have a cataract removed is when it starts to interfere with the things you like to do.” We offer free cataract evaluations performed by one of our board-certified optometrists at all five of our locations,” Dr. Frantz added. To qualify for a free cataract evaluation, you must be a NEW patient who is at least 55 years old.
Cataract surgery, although quite safe, is still surgery. If cataracts don’t affect your quality of life, you may feel that surgery is not needed. The only person who can really decide when it’s time to have them removed is you, under the care of your doctor. “We offer free cataract seminars throughout the year to help people learn more about cataracts,” said Dr. Frantz. A schedule of seminars can be found on this website.