Do you know enough about cataracts?
If you ask Dr. Richard Tipperman, a Philadelphia-based ophthalmologist, about his area of expertise or any conditions related to it, the first thing he will say is that the eye works very much like a camera.
"There is a lens that is physically inside the eye that starts out clear and over time it can get cloudy, and when it get cloudy that is what a cataract is,” Tipperman said.
This month, which happens to be Cataract Awareness Month, he is working to raise awareness and to educate people about the condition that affects almost 25 million people in the U.S. However, a recent national survey showed 25 percent of respondents think they have a full understanding of the condition.
For those who don’t we’ll summarize this condition in five points:
What are the symptoms?
"Cataracts cause a painless change in vision and blurred vision,” Tipperman explains. "That’s one of the issues, because it happens slowly many times early on people don’t realize that their vision is changing. But eventually patients start to notice they are having difficulty driving or difficulties seeing small print or sports scores on television or difficulty reading…”
Who should visit the doctor?
"Anyone who notices there is a change in their vision and they are not seeing as clearly as they used to, they should go and have their eyes examined and that can happen for some people even in their 30s or 40s,” he said.
At what age?
One of most common misconceptions is to think that cataracts are an aging-related condition, said Tipperman.
"We tend to think of cataracts as a medical problem that occurs more frequently with increasing age and certainly its does,” he said. "But even people in their 50s or their 60s if they think their vision is changing they should go and get their eyes examined. It might be something as simple as needing a new glasses prescription but sometime it can be a cataract or glaucoma or diabetes or anything.”
Is surgery the only option?
"Sometimes with growing cataracts you can adjust glasses and get the patient seeing better,” said Tipperman. "But for most people at some point, when they just start not seeing well enough for driving or reading or computers, the only option is to go ahead with cataracts surgery if you want to see better.”
How often should people check their vision?
“Every year,” he said. "With patients with diabetes or other medical conditions their eye doctor will recommend eyes exams more frequently. Someone who is in good general health should get exams every year.”
Test your knowledge on cataracts here.