People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is a guest post by Dr. Carlos Martinez, who is in private practice at Eye Physicians of Long Beach, in California and a consultant for Alcon.
Did you know that cataracts are a natural part of aging? And for the Hispanic community, it is the leading cause of vision impairment. Today, 1.7 million Hispanic Americans have cataracts and the number is projected to grow to more than 9.5 million by the year 2050. And in California, about 10 percent of the Hispanic population has cataracts—a number on par with the national average. According to the National Institutes of Health, 34 percent of Hispanic Americans have cataracts by age 70 and that number climbs to over 60 percent by age 80.
While you might know about the condition and the severe consequences of not treating it, you might be overlooking the way cataracts are affecting your everyday life. According to a 2017 survey done by Alcon of about 1,300 people aged 60 and older who had undergone cataract surgery, emotional and lifestyle changes are an important part of the cataract journey. A majority of the survey respondents reported difficulties doing day-to-day tasks like working, seeing colors, driving and watching TV and movies. Cataracts were also shown to bring about frustration, annoyance and made people feel old.
This means, as the Hispanic population in California and around the country grows, more and more people will not only be saddled with the risk of vision loss but also the daily difficulties and frustrations that often come with cataracts.
So, why is this a big deal? People with cataracts have a higher prevalence of depression symptoms than those without the condition. And these symptoms happen with low levels of vision loss and can cause people to shy away from doing things they once enjoyed.
The good news is that cataract surgery is one of the safest, most common procedures performed in the United States. Most of my patients experience amazing benefits almost immediately after surgery. Not only does their vision show dramatic improvement, they also experience a renewed excitement for life. In the Alcon survey, of those who reported a preference, nearly 3 in 4 report being happier, more satisfied and have a greater appreciation for their lives after surgery.
Now is a time to renew your commitment to eye health – for your emotional and physical well-being – and for your family, too. Here are a few important things you can do this month (and year round) to bring life back into focus:
- Know the symptoms. Because each case of cataracts is different, you might not realize you have them. Common symptoms include cloudy or blurry vision, colors seem faded, poor vision at night and frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contacts.
- Learn about your risk. Most cases of cataracts are related to aging. While there’s no way to prevent them, you can reduce your risk. Those with chronic diseases like diabetes, who smoke or drink alcohol and have extended exposure to UV rays, may be at an increased risk of developing cataracts.
- See a doctor. If you’ve been having problems with your vision, go get checked out. Visiting the doctor can help you understand treatment options including innovations that take care of cataracts and other vision conditions, like astigmatism, at the same time. This option could help you get rid of the glasses you’ve worn for distance for years. And if you’re on the fence about surgery, 93 percent of people from the Alcon survey would recommend treatment based on their experiences.
- Pay attention to your emotional health. If cataracts are causing you to isolate yourself from loved ones, lose interest in the things you love or have difficulty doing simple tasks, know that you’re not alone. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can get back to enjoying life.
Take the time to get the right information. Understanding the condition, your risk and latest treatment options are important steps in taking your life back from cataracts. Visit www.MyCataracts.com for information in English or call 1-844-MYCATARACT for information in Spanish.
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