June is Cataract Awareness Month, and the nation’s leading eye health organization Prevent Blindness wants you and your family to know the risks of the leading cause of blindness worldwide1. Your vision health can be impacted by many factors, but you can protect it with proper and consistent care.
Let’s look at a few risks and symptoms of cataracts, guidelines for when you and your family should seek vision care, and connections between your vision and your overall health.
- Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun
- Certain diseases, such as diabetes
- Inflammation in the eye
- Hereditary influences
- Events before birth, such as German measles
- Long-term steroid use
- Severe long-term nearsightedness
- Eye diseases
Remember: it’s important for all age groups to manage risks. Prevent Blindness estimates that over 30 million Americans who are age 40 and over will have cataracts by the year 20201.
- Cloudy or blurred vision
- Increasing difficulty with vision at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Seeing halos around lights
- Frequent changes in vision prescriptions
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Need for brighter light for reading or other activities
If and when you notice any change in your vision, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor. An eyecare provider can diagnose a cataract with a thorough eye exam3.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you begin proper vision care early in life and note that less than 15% of preschool children get an eye exam and less than 22% get a vision screening4. Prevent Blindness recommends those without symptoms who are5:
- 20-39 years old get a comprehensive eye exam every 2-5 years depending on their risk factors
- 40-64 years old get a comprehensive eye exam every 2-4 years depending on their risk factors
- 65 years old and older get a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years depending on their risk factors
Vision Care and Overall Health
Taking steps to secure you and your loved ones’ healthy vision can also help to protect your overall health. As the windows to your health, your eyes can show healthcare providers symptoms of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and cancers6 according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Getting proper vision care can also protect you and your loved ones while you engage in everyday activities such as driving, playing sports, or using power tools and can help ensure you are able to pursue the activities that interest you far into the future.
Let’s look at some ways you can protect your eyes from cataracts and other eye conditions7:
Have a comprehensive dilated eye exam. It’s common to not realize that your vision could be improved with contacts or glasses until you have an eye exam. It’s also common to not realize you have other common eye diseases such as glaucoma or diabetic eye disease without this exam, as there are often no warning signs.
Know your family’s eye health history. Ask about your family’s history so you know if you’re at a higher risk to develop a condition.
Eat right to protect your sight. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens, can help preserve your vision.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes, and diabetes can lead to eye conditions or vision loss.
Wear protective eyewear. Protective eyewear can protect your vision when you’re playing sports, tanning, or using tools around your home or your workplace. Look for lenses made of polycarbonate, a material that is 10 times stronger than other plastics.
Rest your eyes. Try the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for about 20 seconds. This can help you reduce eyestrain, a good idea if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer or focusing on any one thing.
Knowing risk and signs of cataracts and other possible eye conditions and establishing healthy habits for you and your loved ones will help to protect your vision for a long time to come. You may also consider enrolling in a vision insurance plan that gives you access to eyecare providers and provides benefits such as:
- Eye exams every 12 months
- Lenses every 24 months (this can include single vision, bifocal, and trifocal)
- Frames every 24 months (this can include prescription sunglasses)
- Contact lenses and fitting every 24 months
- Low copays for exams
- In-network savings
- Individual and family coverage
- Ease of provider access (this can include nationwide chains)
Vision insurance can offer you many valuable benefits to help secure a healthier present and future. You may also find that enrolling in memberships to discount vision programs provide you with access to eyecare while helping you save money. These memberships may require you to pay out of pocket for some costs, but these costs may be end up being lower thanks to the strength of participating provider networks.
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1: “June is Cataract Awareness Month.” Prevent Blindess. https://www.preventblindness.org/june-cataract-awareness-month-0
2: “Cataracts: Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/symptoms-causes/syc-20353790
3: “What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts? When Should I Call the Doctor?” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/cataracts/symptoms-of-cataracts-when-to-call-the-doctor#1
4: “Keep an Eye on Your Vision Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/features/healthyvision/index.html
5: “How Often Should I Have an Eye Exam?” Prevent Blindness. https://www.preventblindness.org/how-often-should-i-have-eye-exam
6: “Your Eyes Could Be the Windows to Your Health.” American Academy of Ophthalmogy. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/diagnosing-systemic-diseases-eye-exams
7: “Simple Tips for Healthy Eyes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/risk/tips.htm