Why Are Cataracts So Common?
Accounting for about 3 million procedures each year, cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery in the United States. Over 50% of Americans over age 80 either have cataracts or have had cataract-removal surgery, and there are approximately 20 million cases worldwide. Fortunately, cataract surgery is one of the more routine procedures an ophthalmologist can perform, and it’s tremendously safe and effective. But why is this treatable affliction so common?
Essentially, a cataract is a progressive clouding of the eye’s natural lens. A cataract often begins as a minor, even unnoticeable annoyance, but it can eventually become severe enough to make the cataract sufferer effectively blind. The condition usually develops gradually, and cataracts’ effects can sometimes be initially circumvented with stronger lighting conditions and eyeglasses. However, it’s almost always just a matter of time before cataract-removal surgery is necessary.
Cataracts appear to be a natural side effect of aging, which is likely the main reason they afflict so many people. Furthermore, cataracts can be the result of complications from diabetes, overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, high blood pressure, a previous eye injury, and/or prolonged use of certain medications. With such a wide range of potential causes, it’s no wonder that cataracts are as common as they are.
The long list of potential causes of cataracts explains why it’s so common for people to develop them. But if the procedure to remove cataracts is so straightforward for experienced ophthalmologists, why are there still so many people walking around with this condition? For one, because cataracts develop gradually, it can be easy to get used to their effects—until they seriously affect your vision, that is. Furthermore, people in many parts of the world simply lack access to quality healthcare, and there’s a shortage of specialists in many places. That’s why ophthalmologists sometimes take trips to foreign countries to perform cataract surgery–there are many high-need areas around the world, and an eye surgeon can make a big difference in many people’s lives with a relatively brief visit to one of these areas. In fact, our own Dr. William Segal is volunteering to perform cataract surgery in Honduras in March of next year (more details on that trip and how you can help coming soon).
Cataracts cannot be reversed without surgery. Fortunately, in addition to tremendously safe and effective traditional and laser-assisted cataract surgery techniques, certain behavioral changes may reduce your likelihood of developing cataracts (or at least help you treat them more effectively). If you have regular comprehensive medical eye exams, avoid tobacco use, live a healthy lifestyle, wear polarized sunglasses, and manage cataract-exacerbating illnesses like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, your likelihood of developing cataracts goes down.
At Georgia Eye Physicians & Surgeons, we use cutting-edge technology and techniques to not only remove cataracts, but also implant the most advanced intraocular lenses (IOLs) available. In fact, in August of 2019, we were honored to be among the first American ophthalmology practices to offer Alcon AcrySof® IQ PanOptix® trifocal IOLs to our patients. If you’d like to schedule a comprehensive medical eye exam to check for cataracts or any other eye-health issues, or you’re interested in any of the many other services or products we offer, contact Georgia Eye Physicians & Surgeons today. Be sure to follow Dr. William Segal and Dr. Marc Lay on Facebook and Twitter for more eyecare information, fun facts, and the latest news and updates about eye health.