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Cataract Awareness Facts

  • Half of all Americans will develop cataracts by age 80. More than 22 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts, as noted in Prevent Blindness America's 2008 Vision Problems in the U.S. report. By 2020, 30.1 million Americans in that age group will have cataracts.
  • Direct medical costs for outpatient, inpatient and prescription drug services for cataracts cost Americans $6.8 billion every year. ("Economic Impact of Vision Problems: The Toll of Major Adult Eye Disorders, Visual Impairment, and Blindness on the U.S. Economy," Prevent Blindness America)
  • More than half the people over age 65 have some form of cataract development. (EyeCare America)
  • Although most cases of cataract are related to the aging process, occasionally children can be born with the condition, or a cataract may develop after eye injuries, inflammation, and some other eye diseases. (World Health Organization)
  • Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision, somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40. (Allaboutvision.com)
  • Cataract, a clouding of the eye's lens, is the leading cause of blindness in the world. It is the leading cause of low vision among Americans, contributing to half of all cases. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the United States (American Academy of Ophthalmology, National Eye Institute). In the U.S., risks of cataract surgery are small and the success rate is 95 percent.
  • The estimated annual volume of cataract surgery procedures was 2.79 million in 2005, down from 2.85 million in 2004. (American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery)
  • Surgery is the only treatment for cataract. During surgery, the clouded lens is removed. There are a number of ways to remove cataracts. The eye surgeon will use the method that is best for the patient. Almost all cataract patients receive an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens implant (IOL).
  • Lasers are not currently used to remove cataracts. But, they are sometimes used after cataract surgery to remove a film that grows on the lens implant. (American Academy of Ophthalmology)
  • About 30 percent of patients who undergo extracapsular cataract surgery develop a secondary "after-cataract." Secondary cataracts are more likely to occur in younger patients, in those with diabetes, or when cataract surgery is combined with vitrectomy (clearance of debris from the fluid in the eye). (University of Maryland Medical Center)
  • Both the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the National Eye Institute state: Nutritional or vitamin supplements have been shown to be beneficial in populations with nutritional deficits, but due to the inconsistent results reported in clinical trials, recommendations cannot be made at this time.

There are four types of cataracts:

  1. Age-related- 95 percent of cataracts are age-related, usually after age 40.
  2. Congenital- These are present at birth, usually caused by infection or inflammation during pregnancy; possibly inherited.
  3. Traumatic- Lens damage from a hard blow, cut, puncture, intense heat or chemical burn causes these.
  4. Secondary- Some medicines, eye diseases, eye infections, or diseases such as diabetes, cause these cataracts. A secondary cataract may also form after cataract surgery if the lens capsule becomes cloudy.

Cataracts are classified as one of three types (from AllAboutVision.com):

  1. A nuclear cataract is most commonly seen as it forms. This cataract forms in the nucleus, the center of the lens, and is due to natural aging changes.
  2. A cortical cataract, which forms in the lens cortex, gradually extends its spokes from the outside of the lens to the center. Many diabetics develop cortical cataracts.
  3. A subcapsular cataract begins at the back of the lens. People with diabetes, high farsightedness, retinitis pigmentosa or those taking high doses of steroids may develop a subcapsular cataract.

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