Cataracts Clouding Vision of Millions of Americans, Number Growing Each Year

Health Minute

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An incredibly high percentage of those who undergo cataract surgery are pleased with the procedure, experience quick and positive results, and walk away recommending it to friends and relatives, according to a study by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health CareOff Site Icon(AAAHC) Institute for Quality Improvement.

A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens that sits in the middle part of the eye. For various reasons, the lens becomes cloudier over time until it eventually impedes a person’s vision. Symptoms can include general cloudiness, glare, blurred vision and a halo effect. The only way to correct cataract is by surgically removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a new one.

“It’s like looking through a blurry, foggy, dirty window and with time that window gets dirtier, and the only treatment is to do a window replacement,” says Amina Husain Zaman, MD, an ophthalmologist with the Ohio Eyecare Institute.

The number of Americans suffering from cataracts is rapidly increasing with each decade. The disease, which slowly robs an individual of clear vision, is expected to affect 38 million Americans by 2030 and jump to 50 million sufferers by 2050, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Cataracts can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, but the uncertainty of surgery can often keep a person from seeking help, she says.

“I think the general population can have a lot of apprehension about cataract surgery because they don’t understand exactly what it is and all that the surgery entails,” says Dr. Husain Zaman, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “That’s why it is so important for them to take the first step and come in and receive a consultation to understand their options.” 

Risk Factors Associated with Cataracts

Diseases such as diabetes, behaviors such as smoking, and environmental factors such as overexposure to ultraviolet rays place an individual at a greater for cataracts. Still, the number one risk factor is something no individual can avoid – age. In fact, nearly half of all Americans will have had a cataract by the time they turn 80, the NIH says.

“Certain lifestyle changes such as decreased exposure to ultraviolet rays can reduce one’s risk, but when it comes down to it everyone is at risk for developing cataracts,” Dr. Husain Zaman says.

The good news is that treatment for cataracts is only improving. Laser-assisted cataract surgery is the most recent step forward in how cataracts are being treated. The procedure uses a high quality femtosecond laser to perform all the critical parts of surgery providing more precise results with quicker healing time for the patient, Dr. Zaman says.

Current advancements in cataract surgery also allow physicians like Dr. Husain Zaman to perform vision correction at the same time.

“We now have the technology where we can get patients out of glasses for their near, intermediate and distance vision,” she says.

Dr. Husain Zaman encourages individuals to consider a medical consultation when early signs of cataracts begin. Surgery may not be an immediate option, but a plan can be put in place to follow the condition’s progress. Those who do undergo surgery may be surprised at their level of ease and comfort. The surgery is an outpatient procedure, which takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, and requires nothing more than an eye patch and use of eye drops for several days afterwards.

Find more information on cataract surgery or find a physician.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.