June is Cataract Awareness Month
Last year, we focused our educational awareness on men’s health, linked here. This year, we will be talking about the leading cause of blindness both in the USA and worldwide: Cataracts.
We have seen an increase in the amount of blind and visually impaired adults that we have served through our FQHC, so we were curious to find out what the national data shows. Interestingly, there has been a nation-wide increase in un-correctable vision loss since 2012; recent data shows that 13% of the blind are under the age of 40. Hispanic and Black populations are at a higher risk for blindness than White populations.
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts are defined by the American Academy of Ophthalmology as when “your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy.” The world will appear cloudy, as if you are looking through a foggy window.
What are the Symptoms of Cataracts?
The below symptoms of cataracts are pasted from the American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Any of the symptoms are a cause for concern, so we are not attempting to re-word medical knowledge. If you experience any of these symptoms of cataracts, visit an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) immediately.
- Having blurry vision
- Seeing double (when you see two images instead of one)
- Being extra sensitive to light
- Having trouble seeing well at night, or needing more light when you read
- Seeing bright colors as faded or yellow instead
If you are unsure on how to find an affordable eye doctor near you, please visit our Locations Page to find one of our primary care offices. We can schedule you with one of our providers to discuss your symptoms and assist you in locating specialty care.
Causes of Cataracts
Aging: Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. Your eyes naturally decline with age so it is important for individuals over the age of 60 to visit an eye doctor once a year. Adults 18-60 can visit an eye doctor once every two years.
Smoking: Smoking is a leading cause of cataracts. The more you smoke, the higher your risk for cataracts. If you are a heavy smoker, you are three times as likely as a non-smoker to develop cataracts.
Sun Exposure: Direct exposure to sunlight can increase your risk for cataracts. Direct exposure can also worsen existing cataracts. Wear UV-blocking sunglasses while you drive and during outdoor activities.
Diabetes: Diabetes can lead to permanent, irreversible blindness. Uncontrolled or high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in your eyes, cause your eye lens to swell and cause damage to your retinas.
The only way to remove cataracts is through cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is a commonly performed outpatient procedure. Most patients report little to no pain as the result of the surgery. Your recovery time can take up to 8 weeks. Be sure to follow doctor’s orders post-surgery!
Eye doctors usually will not perform cataract surgery until you develop major issues in your daily life (usually involving driving or reading). You can safely and effectively manage cataracts for years. It is important to follow doctor’s orders so that your vision doesn’t get worse.
To safely manage cataracts, your eye doctor will ask you to do things like:
- Limit driving at night
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol
- Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fish
- Use extra lighting or lamps when reading
- Regular follow up with your primary care doctor for chronic health conditions
- Attend all eye doctor appointments as scheduled
- Wear your glasses as recommended by your eye doctor at the prescribed strength
Resources for the blind and visually impaired
Center for the Visually Impaired
Phone: (404) 875-9011
Address: 739 W Peachtree St NW, Atlanta, GA 30308
Resources: Full-service center for the blind. Assist patient in receiving services/funding through GBRA in their local county, connect with orientation and mobility specialists, peer to peer support, paratransit support (Atlanta area only); DME pharmacy for adaptive equipment such as sun-blocking glasses and canes, free and online Zoom support group
Disability Connections/Middle Georgia Center for Independent Living
Phone: (478) 741-1425 (Voice/Text) or (800) 743-2117
Address: 3695 Broadway Macon Ga 31206
Resources: teaches computer skills, provides resource connection
Library for the Blind
Call for the Library to mail you books, newspapers, magazines and more. You can choose between recorded text, large print or Braille.
Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA)
Phone: 844-367-4872 (Customer Service Line to Find your Local Office)
The GVRA offers a program to help the blind return to work. Clients receive case management, adaptive equipment and orientation and mobility specialist. Call to enroll in services and apply for a waiver program through Medicaid.
Georgia Radio Reading Services
Apply online to receive a free Alexa device that you can use to make verbal shopping lists, reminders, recipes, alarms, call stored cell phone contacts, etc. This device uses WIFI.
Prescription reader device for the visually impaired that reads your dosage instructions, name of med and dosage. Ask your local pharmacy if they participate. Call ScriptTalk for the device to be mailed to you.
iBill Currency Reader Program
Website: https://www.moneyfactory.gov/uscurrencyreaderpgm.html f
Federal program that provides free devices so patients can identify and count money to ensure they are providing or receiving the proper amount. Call to have the device mailed to your home or fill out an online application and mail-in.
2. Vision Loss, Blindness, and Smoking