June is National Cataracts Month: Recognize the symptoms

06.13.2017 | By Jeannie Peng Mansyur

San Jacinto College eye care technology program director offers some tips

PASADENA, Texas – June is National Cataracts Month, as declared by Prevent Blindness America. More than 24 million people over the age of 40 are living with cataracts. Debra Clarke, director of the San Jacinto College eye care technology program, offers some advice on how to recognize the symptoms and where to seek treatment and information.

What are cataracts?
Clarke: The term cataract is Latin and means the word “cloud.” The crystalline lens of the eye, which sits just behind the iris, or the color area of the eye, becomes cloudy with age. When this cloud becomes enough to block the light needed for sight, it is called a cataract.

There are other types of cataracts that are not related to age. These can be from eye trauma, medical conditions such as diabetes and some medications. Additional risk factors for developing cataracts are smoking and long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Clarke: Symptoms people might experience can include blurred vision, needing more light to read, glare from lights at night and changes in colors.

What age groups are affected the most by cataracts?
Clarke: Although cataracts may be found in people of any age, typically this is a condition found in people 40 years of age and older.

If someone suspects they have cataracts, what should they do?

Clarke: Cataracts are not contagious. Using your eyes will not make cataracts worse. If someone suspects they have symptoms of a cataract or they have a risk factor for developing a cataract, they should seek care from an eye care professional.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends individuals, who are younger than 40, have a dilated eye exam every two years, unless otherwise indicated. Individuals, who are 40 and older, should have a dilated eye exam each year.

How do you choose an eye care professional to care for cataracts?
Clarke: Although any eye care professional can examine for cataracts and monitor your status, only an ophthalmologist can treat cataracts.

Any additional information you'd like to share with the public regarding cataracts?
Clarke: Cataracts cannot be treated with medications. Eye drops or other drugs will not dissolve a cataract or slow its progress. Cataracts are treated by surgery. Cataract surgery is one of the most successful elective surgeries performed in the United States each year.

Where can we find out more about cataracts?
Clarke: There are many public / community programs to support and educate regarding eye health. Prevent Blindness America is a leading source for the public.

The San Jacinto College eye care technology program is the only ophthalmic technician training program in Texas accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Ophthalmic Medical Programs. The program offers an occupational certificate for optician training, a certificate of technology for paraoptometric training, and the associate of applied science degree in eye care technology. For more information, sanjac.edu/career/eye-care-technology.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 30,000 students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers seven areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit sanjac.edu or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.