Open Accessibility Menu

Preventing Cataracts - Another Reason to Shade Yourself from the Summer Sun

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler

June is the official greeter of summer, and—while the warm summer sun is inviting, scientists have long made it clear that this life-fueling star also is responsible for potentially life-threatening conditions, such as skin cancer. This fact is now widely known, but many folks aren't aware that the sun’s ultraviolet rays also can be a factor in the formation of cataracts.

June is Cataract Awareness Month. With an eye toward increasing awareness about this cataract-risk factor—as well as other risk factors—ATRIO Health Plans is shedding light on this condition's widespread impact and steps to take with prevention in mind.

Cataract Overview

More than 22-million Americans suffer from cataract, which is a clouding of the eye’s lens that affects vision. A cataract can occur in one or both eyes, but it can’t spread from one eye to the other.

If there was a club for cataract sufferers it would have an expansive membership, considering that—by the time they celebrate their 80th birthday—more than half of all Americans will have cataracts. Consequently, cataract is generally viewed as a condition that often accompanies normal aging. Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness among older adults in the United States. Cataracts also can occur in young people or even babies.

Frequently cited cataract symptoms include:

  • Experiencing blurred vision, double vision, or multiple images in one eye.
  • Feeling as if your eyes are covered by a film.
  • Having difficulty seeing in dim light.
  • Being bothered by bright lights and/or sunlight.
  • Finding that new eyeglass prescriptions don’t improve vision.
  • Observing a yellowish or milky spot on your pupil.
  • Noticing a brownish tint to your vision and a sense that colors look faded.
  • Having trouble reading.
  • Struggling to see at night.

Cataract Risk

Given the prevalence of cataract, clearly everyone is susceptible to this eye condition. That said, there are factors that increase the risk, including:

  • Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun.
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes.
  • Inflammation in the eye.
  • Events before birth, such as German measles in the mother.
  • Long-term steroid use.
  • Eye injuries.
  • Eye diseases.
  • Smoking.

Cataract Surgery

If you’re diagnosed with a cataract or cataracts, the good news is that cataract surgery not only is one of the most common procedures performed in America, but it also is one of the safest and most effective. In fact, according to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, 3-million Americans undergo cataract surgery annually, with an overall success rate of 98 percent or higher.

Regardless of the procedure used, once the lens has been extracted, it often is replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL). Constructed of clear plastic, the IOL becomes a permanent part of the eye, requires no care, and improves vision.

Protect your Vision

For many—particularly those in their senior years—cataracts will be inevitable. However, there are actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of cataract development:

  • When outdoors during the day, wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to block the sun’s UV rays.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Do not consume alcohol in excess.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat antioxidant-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, and fish.
  • If you’re age 60 or older, schedule a dilated eye exam at least every two years.