Looking Out for Cataracts
May 1, 2011
Failing the vision portion of a DOT physical because of cataracts is a common reason drivers apply to the St. Christopher Fund. Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens. The lens helps focus light or images on the retina. The lens must be clear to see a sharp image but because cataracts make the lens cloudy, the images seen are blurry.
According to the World Health Organization, age-related cataracts cause 48% of blindness worldwide. Cataracts are also the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. About 17% (20.5 million) of Americans aged 40 and older have one or two cataracts but that number is expected to increase to 30.1 million by 2020. The main reason for this increase is due to a larger population of older individuals, although a depletion in the ozone layer will also contribute because exposure to UV rays is one cause of cataracts. Other risk factors for cataract are family history of cataracts, having diabetes, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
There are 5 types of cataracts:
1) Age-related: this is the most common type. According to the National Eye Institute, most individuals have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s but they do not affect their vision until after age 60.
2) Secondary: cataracts that form after eye surgery, those that develop because of steroid use or being diabetic.
3) Traumatic: cataracts which develop after an eye injury. These can develop years later.
4) Congenital: when babies are born with cataracts; may be very small and do not affect vision.
5) Radiation: cataracts that develop after radiation exposure.
When the vision loss from a cataract affects your everyday activities (e.g. driving, reading, watching TV, etc), you will need to have surgery to remove the cataract. During the surgery, the cloudy, cataract lens will be replaced with an artificial lens. If you have cataracts in both eyes, surgery on one eye will typically be 4-8 weeks after the previous eye surgery. However, during the early phases of problems with cataracts, symptoms may be improved with new glasses, brighter lighting, magnifying lenses, or anti-glare glasses.
You may suspect you have a cataract if you experience any of the following symptoms:
1) Cloudy, blurry, foggy, filmy or fuzzy vision
2) Sensitivity to glare
3) Difficulty seeing at night or in dim light
4) Colors seem faded/not as intense
5) Seeing halos around lights
6) Double vision or multiple images in one eye
7) Problems seeing shapes against a background
8) Problems seeing the difference between shades of color
9) Frequent prescription changes in your glasses or contact lenses
The Centers for Disease Control has informative videos of cataracts, which can be seen by following this link: http://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basic_information/eye_disorders_cataract.htm
St. Christopher Fund
Donation line: 877-332-GIVE (4483)
Fax #: 865-851-8396
P.O. Box 30763 Knoxville, TN 37924