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Canadians need to get serious about cataracts

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Cataracts are the leading cause of preventable blindness. Seventy-five percent of Canadians have cataracts, however, according to a recent survey from Alcon Canada two-thirds of Canadians know next to nothing about them. Loss of vision has been increasing since 2020, and it is now more important than ever to be aware of cataracts.

What are cataracts?

 Cataracts happen when protein builds up over the lens in your eye obscuring your vision. Over time, more protein builds up and vision becomes increasingly poor.

The eye’s natural lens deteriorates over time. Surgery to restore vision involves replacing the eye’s natural lens with an artificial one known as an intraocular lens (IOL). There are several options to choose from when getting an IOL including monofocal lenses, extended vision lenses, trifocal lenses, and toric lenses.

Cataracts are removed by a safe surgery that restores vision back to normal and typically only takes half an hour. However, delaying eye-care appointments, treatments, and surgeries allows for cataracts to worsen, a recent report by Fighting Blindness Canada reports.

Dr. Kam Kassiri.

For more detail, let’s turn to Edmonton Ophthalmologist Dr. Kam Kassiri:

At what age do people become at increased risk for cataracts? Is it the same for men and women?

As we age, our eyes change and different natural eye conditions begin to develop, affecting our vision and ability to enjoy daily activities of life.  There’s no difference between men and women when it comes to aging eyes, but cataracts tend to appear most often in people over the age of 60 and certain risk factors, such as diabetes, can expedite their development.

If symptoms go untreated, how does the risk increase, including for blindness?

To understand the risk of cataracts, it’s important to know that cataracts are a result of the natural, gradual clouding of the lens in your eye making it difficult for light to enter. As the clouding continues to get worse, so does your sight. Cataracts are the leading cause of preventable blindness.

Surgery is the only way to remove cataracts and get back to clear vision. It is one of the safest, most frequently performed, and successful surgeries in medicine. In fact, more than 500,000 cataract procedures are performed each year in Canada. At Alberta Eye MD, each of our surgeons have performed more than 10,000 procedures and we excel in ensuring our patients are comfortable and receive successful results.

Beyond improved vision, there are other potential benefits to cataract surgery. It’s been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline, improve sleep quality, walking speed and even improve mood.

Canadians need to be mindful of their eye health and get regular eye exams. It’s important at any age to get your eyes checked with you notice any change in your vision.

What are the costs of treatment? Is this covered by public and private healthcare plans? How much of a factor is this in getting treatment?

Patients in Canada have options when it comes to cataract surgery. Your doctor can help you understand your lens options. While coverage differs from province to province, most public plans cover a monofocal lens which will restore vision at one distance but will required the patient to use reading glasses. Advanced trifocal intraocular lenses toric or extended depth of focus lenses restore vision and correct an individual’s lens at near, intermediate and far distances. It’s important for patients to be aware of the available lens options and to ask their surgeons which lens is best suited for their needs and lifestyle. For more information, talk to your eye doctor or visit SeeTheFullPicture.ca

Finally, here is the viewpoint of patient Andrée Jodoin:

Andree Jodoin is a mom of two daughters and a grandmother to five. She is from Rimouski, Quebec and has worked in pharmacy since 1979 as an orthopedic product adjuster.

 “I noticed a problem with my vision when I was camping and started seeing flashes in the corner of my eye. I was worried, so I went to the doctor right away and was diagnosed with cataracts. For my choice of lenses, I chose an extended lenses that improved my near and far distant vision. There’s no halo at night and it’s amazing not needing glasses all the time. My operation went very well. It didn’t take long and I had no pain at all, which was so important for me. My vision just changed, immediately. I could see the fine print; I could see a lot of things that I couldn’t see before.”

If you enjoyed this article, check out Keeping an eye on your eyes.

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