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Cataract Awareness Month: Why Early Detection is Crucial

Every June, we observe Cataract Awareness Month to highlight a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, Cataracts. Cataracts cause clouding of the eye's natural lens and is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. This month-long observance serves as a reminder of the importance of early detection and treatment to preserve vision and enhance your quality of life.

Most cataracts happen because of normal changes in your eyes as you get older

Understanding Cataracts


A cataract is a progressive condition where the eye's lens becomes opaque, leading to blurry vision, difficulty with night vision, and sensitivity to light.

Cataracts happen because of normal changes in your eyes as you get older. When you’re young, the lens in your eye is clear. Around age 40, the proteins in the lens of your eye start to break down and clump together. This clump makes a cloudy area on your lens. Over time, the cataract gets worse and makes more of your lens cloudy causing your vision to worsen.


Besides aging, what other factors can cause cataracts?


  • Diabetes: Increases the risk of developing cataracts at a younger age

  • Smoking and Alcohol Use: Both have been linked to an increased risk of cataracts

  • Prolonged Sun Exposure: Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can accelerate the formation of cataracts

  • Family History: Genetics can play a role in the development of cataracts

  • Trauma & Injury: While doing activities like using power tools or playing certain sports, wear protective eyewear to protect your eyes from getting accidentally injured which can cause damage to your lens and cause a cataract

  • Radiation: Exposure to radiation to the upper part of the body can cause cataracts

  • Use of Steroids: Prolonged use of steroids and cortisone containing medications can lead to the development of cataracts


The Importance of Early Detection


Early detection of cataracts is crucial for several reasons:


1. Prevent Vision Loss: Catching cataracts early allows for timely treatment, which can prevent significant vision impairment. While cataracts develop slowly, once they start interfering with daily activities, intervention becomes necessary.


2. Enhanced Quality of Life: Cataracts can affect daily activities such as reading, driving, and recognising faces. Early treatment can help maintain independence and overall quality of life.


3. Simpler Surgical Procedures: Cataract surgery is one of the most common and successful surgeries performed today. Early-stage cataracts can be removed more easily and with fewer complications compared to more advanced cataracts .


4. Cost-Effective Treatment: Addressing cataracts early can reduce the overall cost of treatment. Advanced cataracts might require more complex procedures, increasing medical expenses.


Normal Eye Vs. Cataract

Recognising the Symptoms


Understanding the symptoms of cataracts can lead to early diagnosis and treatment. Because cataracts are progressive, at most times patients do not realise they are developing or have developed cataracts until their vision is entirely affected. However, there are telltale signs:


Common cataract symptoms include:

- Blurred or cloudy vision that worsens over time

- Difficulty seeing and driving at night

- Sensitivity to light and glare

- Seeing "halos" around lights

- Fading and yellowing of colours

- Double vision


If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to schedule an eye examination with your optometrist or an ophthalmologist.


Taking Preventative Measures


While some risk factors for cataracts, like aging and genetics, cannot be controlled, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:


- Wear Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

- Quit Smoking: Smoking cessation can decrease the risk of developing cataracts.

- Manage Health Conditions: Keep conditions like diabetes under control to reduce associated risks.

- Regular Eye Exams: Regular check-ups can help detect cataracts and other eye conditions early.


Conclusion


Cataract Awareness Month is a vital initiative to educate the public about the importance of eye health and the benefits of early detection and treatment of cataracts. By being proactive, getting regular eye exams, and understanding the symptoms, you can take charge of your eye health and ensure a clearer, brighter future. Remember, early intervention can save your sight and improve your quality of life.


Spread the word this June, and let’s work together to reduce the impact of cataracts on individuals and communities worldwide.


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