June is Cataract Awareness Month
Cataract is the world’s leading cause of blindness, accounting for approximately 42 percent of all cases of blindness in all nations. In the United States, more than 25 million Americans are estimated to have cataract, according to the report “Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems.” As the population in America continues to age, the number of cataract cases are projected to increase by 50 percent to 38.5 million by 2032.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. The lens of the eye is located behind the pupil and the colored iris, and is normally transparent. Vision may become blurry or dim because the cataract stops light from properly passing through to the retina. Generally, a cataract does not cause pain, redness or tears.
Risk factors for cataracts include:
- Older age
- 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
Most cataract cases in the United States are in older adults, but children may also develop pediatric cataracts. Cataracts in a child can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (develop after birth). Without treatment, cataracts in young children can cause poor development of the visual pathway between the brain and the eye, leading to vision impairment. Therefore, diagnosing and treating cataracts early in children is critical to promoting normal vision development.