June is Cataract Awareness Month, which is sponsored by Prevent Blindness America. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. Signs and symptoms of cataracts include blurred vision, double vision, or a feeling of film over the eyes. People with cataracts may find lights too dim for reading or close-up work and may find strong light to be “dazzling.” Generally, cataracts are not painful or irritating. However, they can lead to loss of employment and independence: The loss of clear vision can cause difficulty in performing tasks on the job or in the home, and increased safety risks on the road. In most cases, vision loss due to cataracts can be restored through surgery. Restoring vision can lead to improved job performance, greater independence at home and on the road, and more. A study on the risk of fractures following cataract surgery in Medicare beneficiaries found that people who had cataract surgery had a significantly reduced rate of hip fractures from falls.
According to statistics from the National Eye Institute, there are over 24 million Americans over the age of 40 who have cataracts and that number is projected to reach nearly 40 million by 2030. During middle age, most cataracts are small and do not affect a person’s vision. It is after the age of 60 that most cataracts cause problems. Although the risk of cataract increases as people age, there are other risk factors. These factors include certain diseases, such as diabetes; personal behavior, such as smoking or alcohol use; and environmental factors, such as prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. As we’ve noted in the past, people with disabilities are living longer and are at the same risk of experiencing age-related disabilities and conditions like cataracts. Annual check-ups should include screening for cataracts and other age-related vision loss, along with caring for chronic conditions and disabilities.
Current and recently completed research projects funded by NIDILRR are focusing on rehabilitation technology, systems to facilitate the creation of accessible educational materials, universal design in the home, accessible environmental information applications, and the effect of guidance surfaces on travelers with visual disabilities, among other topics.
Our REHABDATA database includes many articles, books, and reports on vision loss related to aging, including cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration from the NIDILRR community and the international disability and rehabilitation research community.
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