According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, almost everyone who lives a long life will develop cataracts at some point. As more Americans live into their 70s and beyond, it’s important to know a few cataract basics: risks and symptoms, tips that may delay onset, and how to decide when it is time for surgery to restore good vision. "Cataract surgery is a very common procedure with a success rate of more than 95 percent," says Jeffrey Whitman, MD, of the Key-Whitman Eye Center in Dallas, TX, and an Academy clinical correspondent. "The eye’s natural lens with cataract is removed and replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL), selected to meet each patient’s vision correction needs. Talk with your Eye M.D. about IOL options and related use of eyeglasses, so together you can select the best IOL for you." Get educated by knowing your risk factors. In addition to having a family history of cataract, having diabetes or being a smoker, other factors can increase your risk of developing a cataract, including extensive exposure to sunlight, serious eye injury or inflammation and prolonged use of steroids, especially the combined use of oral and inhaled steroids. Next, reduce those risks. Use UV-rated sunglasses when outdoors and add a wide-brimmed hat when spending long hours in the midday sun; if you smoke, quit; and if you have diabetes, carefully control your blood sugar through diet, exercise and medications, if needed. Finally, be informed about when to consider surgery. This decision is really up to each person based on his or her daily activities and related vision needs. The concept that the cataract is "ripe," or ready, is no longer considered a valid reason for surgery. After age 65, most people will see their Eye M.D. at least once a year, have their vision tested and learn whether cataracts are growing. But only you can determine whether symptoms like glare, halos, blurriness, dimmed colors or other cataract-related problems are making activities like driving and reading difficult or impossible. The Academy’s consumer guide to cataract surgery [http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/cataracts.cfm] offers more information to help you make the right decisions.
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