Can you see clearly now? Get your eyes checked for Cataract Awareness Month

Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness, accounting for an estimated 42 percent of all cases of blindness in the world. In the United States, more than 25 million Americans are estimated to have cataracts, 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. But babies and young children can have cataracts.

Prevent Blindness, a national nonprofit with a mission to preserve vision, has declared June as Cataract Awareness Month to educate the public on symptoms, types of cataracts, cataract surgery and more.

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
  • Smoking

Most cataract cases in the United States are in older adults, but children may also develop pediatric cataracts. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 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.

“Although cataracts are the world’s leading cause of vision loss, it is an eye disease that can be treated successfully with access to quality eyecare services,” said Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “We strongly encourage everyone to educate themselves on cataracts and what services are available to see clearly today and, in the years, to come.”

Although there is no way to prevent cataracts from forming, there is some evidence that protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light may prevent or slow the progression of cataracts.

Smoking also increases the rate of cataract formation, so stopping smoking will decrease the risk. Once cataracts have formed, the only treatment is surgical removal of the cataract and replacement with an artificial lens.

There are different types and powers of lenses that your surgeon can implant during surgery, including lenses that help correct astigmatism.

After surgery, your need for glasses will often be reduced, but not eliminated. You and your surgeon will discuss which implant lens type and power is the right choice for you.

Medications cannot be used to treat a cataract. Surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. When the cataract has become severe enough that it compromises your quality of life, you and your ophthalmologist will discuss the appropriate time to remove it.

For free information on cataract, call Prevent Blindness at (800) 331-2020 or visit the Prevent Blindness website at For a listing of vision care financial assistance programs in English or Spanish, visit

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