Since June is cataract awareness month I wanted to take some time to talk about what a cataract is and how it can affect your vision. First some back ground, cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40. Today, cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans age 40 and older. And as the U.S. population ages, more than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts by the year 2020, Prevent Blindness America says. One of the first signs of cataract development is very subtle and common, blurred vision. This is different than the just, “I need a new pair of glasses” blur. I describe it more as looking through a dirty window, you can see the object you’re looking at the details just aren’t what they should be. What is happening is that the lens inside the eye is becoming cloudy and the more it clouds the more the vision deteriorates. So it is easy to say that a cataract is something most of us will have to deal with at some point in our lifetime. There are some things that can be done for prevention however. One of the top causes of cataract development is exposure to ultraviolet radiation or UV. A very simple step here is a good pair of UV blocking sunglasses as I talked about in my previous blog. Another big risk factor is smoking. Most of us think we know all the health problems related to smoking but most, I think, would be surprised to see cataract development on that list. Other health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity also help to speed up cataract development so keeping them in check can help slow their progression. In the early stages a cataract can still be managed with a good glasses prescription. As they progress and thicken that is when the glasses will no longer clear things adequately and it is time to consider surgery. Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. In fact, it is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States, with more than 3 million Americans undergoing cataract surgery each year, according to Prevent Blindness America. During surgery, the surgeon will remove your clouded lens and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL). This is a fairly quick and painless procedure with the surgery normally taking less than 10 minutes and most patients seeing better the next day. So, if you are concerned if you may have a cataract or not I would encourage you to have you eyes examined soon. If you have a cataract I recommend having your eyes re-evaluated at least yearly to make sure we keep up with changes and do not let the cataract reduce your quality of life.