According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in adults age 65 and older. Cataracts are essentially a cloudy film of protein on the lens of the eye. They prevent the light from coming in and you from seeing out. This month is National Cataract Awareness Month.
Cataracts start small and develop slowly over time. This is why so many sufferers are over the age of 60, but they can develop at any age.
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Colors that appear faded
- Halos around headlights at night
What are the Risk Factors for Cataracts?
In 2009, several gene mutations associated with age-related cataracts were located. Family history however, is just one of the risk factors. If you suffer from diabetes, are a smoker, or have had extensive exposure to sunlight, take steroids, or have sustained serious injury to the eye, you are at an increased risk. One of the best ways you can reduce your risk of cataract is by wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays.
Cataract Treatment Options
Cataracts are treated with a simple outpatient surgery that breaks up the proteins in the cataract to restore clear vision. To prevent cataracts, beyond wearing sunglasses anytime you’re in the sun, eat a healthy diet rich in vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin to keep them from developing in the first place.
What Can Pharmacists Do?
As a pharmacist, there are plenty of things you can do to help your patients learn more about cataracts, and healthy eye care. Encourage patients to see an eye doctor on a regular basis. Patients who wear glasses should be advised to see their eye doctor once a year, whereas patients who do not wear glasses or contacts can safely get by with an eye exam every two years. Educate older patients on the importance of routine eye care and if cataracts appear in their family history, ask about their most recent eye exam.
Partner with other medical professionals and eye doctors in your community to host an event to educate the public. Offer free basic screenings, and discounted full exams to help diagnose cataracts and those who may not otherwise be able to afford an exam.
Use the power of social media to educate patients who may not physically appear in your pharmacy over the course of the month. Share information about health, wearing sunglasses even if you wear contacts, and more to ensure everyone knows how to protect themselves and prevent cataracts.
Don’t forget to notify senior citizens about the public service program EyeCare America. The Seniors EyeCare program provides access to high exams and one year of eye care at no out-of-pocket expense for qualifying seniors.