Your Health: Treating Cataracts
GAINESVILLE, FLa. -- Think about everything that would be affected in your life if you lost your eyesight. That's a reality for millions of people worldwide who suffer from cataracts - the leading form of blindness worldwide.
June is National Cataract Awareness Month. Cataracts affect over 20 million Americans, and that number is expected to soar to more than 30 million by the year 2020.
The number of people experiencing problems with vision loss is expected to increase as more and more americans suffer from diabetes and other chronic diseases.
68-year-old Thomas Burke always had perfect vision, until slowly but surely it began to fade.
"The thing that bothered me most is the glare of the headlights," Burke says.
"There's a lot of misconceptions about cataracts, people think that it's a growth in the eye, or a film on the eye, and that's not the case," she says.
In fact, cataracts do not harm the eye. They're a progressive changing of your lens.
"Just behind the pupil is a lens," Tuli explains, "[its] what converts into a cataract when we get older."
You can think of your lens like a camera lense, both let light through to form an image. A cataract is the build up of proteins that become cloudy as they break down, similar to if a camera lense were to get dirty. In either case, both are blocking light - creating a blury picture.
"Everyone will get cataracts if they're old enough," she says, "It's not abnormal, this is just another part of aging. It's what we do to fix it that is important."
The natural lens is replaced by an artifical lens that won't cloud up.
Some patients like UF Athletics Director Jeremy Foley have had both eyes surgically corrected.
"I couldn't see the scoreboard clearly was when i realized that this isn't good," Foley says.
Foley had his first surgery before the Gator Mens Baseball team played in the 2012 College World Series.
"I was there in the stadium and it was the first scoreboard I was able to see in I don't know how many years," he says, "And it was like the scoreboard was right in front of me. My staff had a good laugh about it, they said now we can enjoy the game!"
Like Foley, Burke says he noticed a difference immediately.
"I went into the refrigerator to get some creamer for my coffee and the brilliance of the light and the color was spectacular, truly spectacular I went 'woah!' You don't realize because of the process of it being so gradual over time, how it impacts your sense of color, clarity, crispness, unbelievable change," Burke says.
At this point doctors don't know exactly how to prevent cataracts, but they say wearing sunglasses and avoiding UV light will certainly help.
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