Use the information you learn this month to protect your eyes all year ’round
It’s easy to take our eyes for granted, but if you’ve ever experienced a loss of vision—even temporarily—you quickly realize how much most of us rely on our vision to maintain our quality of life. For those of us who wear glasses or contact lenses daily, try to imagine if those tools weren’t available to improve your eyesight. How would you manage?
Protecting your eyes is an easy thing you can do now! Loss of vision can have a major impact on your life. It affects your ability to work and drive, and it changes the way you take part in activities and interactions with family and friends. If someone you know is having symptoms of cataracts or other eye disease, you can support them by encouraging them to see a doctor, since the early detection and treatment of cataracts is critical to preserving sight. Cataract Awareness Month is a great time to step-up your education on this topic and share it with loved ones.
Many of us with “light eyes” (blue or green eyes) find it uncomfortable to be outside in the bright sunshine without protective sunglasses. There is a reason for this natural aversion—our eyes can only take so much exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation before there starts to be permanent damage. The longer you are exposed to solar radiation, the greater the risk you will develop macular degeneration or cataracts. Lifestyle choices and work environments can also expose you to additional UV radiation, especially if you come into regular contact with welding machines, lasers, or tanning beds.
But UV rays are only one factor to be aware of. Make sure you have regular vision checks. It’s important to talk to your doctor about other factors that may put you at greater risk for cataracts and other age-related eye diseases, including:
- High blood pressure and diabetes
- Smoking and alcohol use
- Eye injury
- Eye diseases
- Intense heat
- Inflammation in the eye
- Hereditary influences
- Events before birth, such as German measles in the mother
- Long-term steroid use.
According to the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) from the National Eye Institute, a part of the National Institute of Health (NIH), there are some common symptoms for cataracts that you should mention to an eye doctor as soon as you notice them:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Double vision, ghost images, the sense of a “film” over the eyes
- Poor night vision
- Lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work
- Sensitivity with glare or strong light
- Colors seeming faded
- Frequent chances to your eye prescription that may not seem to help your vision.
- Noticing a milky or yellowish spot in the pupil (this would be a cataract; the center of your eye is normally black).
Loss of vision from cataracts is something that many Americans can prevent. The National Institute of Health offers practical facts on cataracts, including frequently asked questions about causes, surgery, and research. For more information about eye health and National Cataract Month, visit the Discovery Eye Foundation, which has a page devoted to what your vision looks like if you suffer from one of several vision impairments.
We hope you will take the opportunity during Cataract Awareness Month to share this information as widely as you can with friends, family, and colleagues. It can make years of difference to the vision of you or someone you know!